08:02, January 04 187 0 theguardian.com

2019-01-04 08:02:13
Thirteen people apply online for divorce on Christmas Day in England and Wales

Thirteen people applied to divorce their partner on Christmas Day, according to newly released government figures revealing unfestive use of online justice services.

Over the whole of the holiday period – between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day – 455 applications were lodged in England and Wales, the Ministry of Justice has shown.

The figures have been recorded for the first time in statistics showing that 150,000 people accessed digital justice platforms during the past year. More than 300,000 people have registered with online justice services since 2015.

The first full week of the new year is one of the busiest periods for initiating divorces as unhappy couples, having failed to resolve their differences over Christmas, resort to specialist lawyers.

The MoJ launched its online divorce petition service last May. The department says it has reduced errors in application forms from 40% to less than 1%. More than 23,000 applications have been made since then.

An online civil money claims service launched in March last year has received more than 39,000 applications. The MoJ says that more then 85% of users report being satisfied with both services.

The initiatives are part of a £1bn court modernisation programme that is being largely funded by the sale of courthouses around England and Wales, which, the department says, were being underused.

The justice minister, Lucy Frazer, said: “These online services are already making a difference to people who use the justice system. As we reach this milestone it’s encouraging to see people are reporting these services work well for them and are a better fit around their busy lives.”

In addition, during 2018 more than 81,000 online pleas were registered for low-level motoring offences via the Make a Plea service that was first introduced in 2014.

The MoJ expects that by next year about 100 justice services will be available digitally. Online services do not replace existing paper-based applications but provide, the MoJ believes, quicker, easier routes for many claimants.