British criminal courts urged to go digital

A newly published report into criminal proceedings, by Sir Brian Leveson, summaries ways in which the criminal justice system can utilise IT and technology to reform the courts, without the need for lengthy enabling legislation

by the commentator on 23 January 2015 16:50

Ricoh

One of Britain’s most senior judges has recommended the introduction of digital technologies such as video streaming and online filing to bring the criminal courts into the 21st century.

The newly published report into criminal proceedings, by Sir Brian Leveson, summaries ways in which the criminal justice system can utilise IT and technology to reform the courts, without the need for lengthy enabling legislation.

In his recommendations, Leveson, president of the Queen’s Bench, explained: "Rather than seeking to bolt procedures onto a system initially designed for the 19th century (as has been the practice for the last 50 years), I have tried to identify ways in which our current procedures can be adapted to make the best use of the skills, resources, IT and systems available.” 

Leveson added that criminal justice system currently relies on a combination of long-standing manual processes and aging computer systems. He suggests that the courts need better, quicker and cheaper ways of creating, filing and distributing documents, as well as more flexible ways of communication.

“We need to reduce the number of hearings at which the participants have to attend in person,” he continued. “It is critical that we avoid duplication of work (such as rekeying the same information) and that we reduce administrative errors. Well-constructed IT has the potential to overcome most of these challenges.”

All documentation in a case will be filed in an electronic store. The parties will present their cases digitally and the information made accessible to the jury (on tablets) in this format

The review calls for more frequent use of video-link technology to enable remote hearings and for courts to adopt flexible working hours.

Responding to the report, Andrew Grant, account director for enterprise services at IT services company said, Ricoh UK, said, “Streamlining inefficient systems in the paper-intensive legal sector is long overdue. However, its lateness to the party means it has the benefit of being able to learn from the success of other sectors.

“Technology, properly implemented, will make things cheaper and faster. But perhaps more important it will increase access to justice. Just as in business technology can allow a new mother to work effectively without leaving her children, it can allow witnesses who can’t or won’t come to a courtroom to give evidence which may be vital to ensuring justice is done.”

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