Lawyers and litigants awoke this morning to the wholesale move of procedure rules to a government website described by one as ‘unusable’.
The Ministry of Justice is in the process of moving all civil, family and criminal procedure rules from its own site to the gov.uk address. As of today, visitors to parts of the old site are redirected to the new pages, although the old pages can be accessed for now while the transfer is completed.
Users have reported numerous problems with the new site – not least that any links to specific paragraphs or rules included in electronic bundles are no longer valid, and redirect anyone opening them to a generic overview of passages cited. This is likely to present problems when judges are taken to particular links during hearings.
The old site had listed the rules in full at one link, but the CPR are now split into different parts and categorised seemingly randomly at intervals of 20.
David Wolfson QC, justice minister in the House of Lords, responded to online criticism by pledging to look into whether the new site can be improved. He tweeted: ‘It’s important that the Civil Procedure Rules (and other similar rules) are easily accessibly but also in a comprehensible manner – that’s all part of access to justice.’
Michael Thorne, a litigant in person whose case currently going through the appeal court, said the new site was ‘not usable’ and impossible for a lay person to navigate. ‘The new CPR site couldn’t be more badly designed if they tried,’ he added.
Lawyers have reported to the Gazette finding the new site hard to navigate and said the old CPR pages had worked perfectly well. Problems with the redesign include that pages do not show when changes were made to the CPR or practice directions, and the splits between parts of the CPR are purely arbitrary.
Faisel Sadiq, a barrister at Hardwicke chambers, said: ‘I think members of the legal profession will adjust (albeit it really isn’t user friendly now) but having played with the website for a while now, I think this really will be a nightmare for litigants in person to navigate.’
The Ministry of Justice has yet to respond to a request for comment.