Articles filed under Courtroom technology

A recent major IT failure on the Ministry of Justice network, which reportedly led to the disruption of thousands of cases, highlighted how reliant courts already are upon technology. Commenting in the wake of the fallout, Richard Atkins QC, the chair of the Bar Council, noted that “it illustrates how vulnerable the delivery of justice is with reliance on weak IT systems in our courts.” Although HM Courts & Tribunal Service (HMCTS) has big plans for online justice beyond the physical courtroom, it is worth first considering the various technologies currently being used by the courts.

I don’t meet many people working in the justice system who disagree that we need to change, but people do often question whether we will be able to do what we have said we will, and whether our reforms will be implemented well and will work properly. They point to criminal justice or wider Government IT problems of the past to illustrate these worries.

Central Family Court

Within the legal sector there is now an increasing clamour about the use of technology to leverage greater innovation. Everyone wants to be seen as cutting-edge, tech savvy and as “true pioneers of innovation”. It’s almost a race by some to differentiate themselves from the competition through technology. However, if all the top law firms are making this same kind of noise, then naturally enough they all sound the same.

It’s easy to see why the startling developments being made in machine learning, artificial intelligence and sentiment analysis grab the headlines. You cannot go a day (or even a couple of hours) without someone extolling the virtues of some new ‘game changer’ within the legal profession.

And the courtroom is no exception.

A meeting held by video conference uses dedicated video conference equipment. Typically this is a “room based” system which is designed to accommodate up to 6–10 people. The equipment allows for “real time” or live audio and visual communication.

The new Supreme Court is the UK’s most technologically advanced court.

One remarkable innovation is that, in each of the three courtrooms, there are four fixed cameras. These record all proceedings for display on large monitors in the exhibition area. Although the sittings of the Court are not yet made available on the Web or on television, there is a protocol in place with broadcasters to provide materials for news and documentaries. In sensitive cases, there are procedures to safeguard the anonymity of those involved. These filming arrangements are unique in the courts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, where cameras have been forbidden in the past.

Bringing a case to court has become increasingly complex. Cases are taking longer, requiring more information and faster access to this data, and controlling costs is a constant challenge. Today, a range of litigation technologies and services are available that can help improve efficiency, reduce costs and enhance argument.

Electronic Presentation of Evidence (EPE) is an IT-driven alternative to paper-based presentation in a room being used for a legal hearing, usually a court or arbitration room. Most commonly it will consist of scanned pages of documents being stored on a computer which are made available to the participants of the hearing via presentation on screens dotted around the courtroom, but the term EPE also embraces other technologies such as video links, 3D graphics and virtual reconstructions – anything that will aid the clarity of the case being presented or is required for the smooth running of a hearing.