First 'entirely digital' court proceedings go ahead
First ‘entirely digital’ court proceedings go ahead
A pilot scheme carried out in the West London Family Court is making a claim to be the first ‘entirely digital’ court proceedings to be carried out in the UK.
As Legal Futures reports, software company Zylpha (surely a minor character in the forthcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens?) has been working with the West London court to carry out 70 local authority proceedings without a single sheet of paper being brought into the entire affair. The ‘Digital Courtrooms’ scheme was cooked up by the South London Legal Partnership, which comprises Zylpha; Richmond, Merton, Sutton and Kingston councils; and ProjectFusion, a specialist in secure data transfer.
Tim Long, chief exec at Zylpha, said: “We believe this is the first time legal proceedings have been carried out entirely electronically in run-of-the-mill cases. Even in the Rolls Building they are still asking for paper copies of documents as well as electronic ones.”
Long is clear on the importance of leadership when it comes to seeing paperless proceedings embraced more broadly: “The key to this is acceptance by the judiciary. Magistrates are particularly enthusiastic about it, because they can see the paperwork early and no longer have to drive to court.”
Naturally enough, it is the cost saving benefits of an all-digital approach that are most calculated to appeal to the remaining of London’s 32 boroughs – which the scheme is eyeing with a view to city-wide expansion. Long emphasizes the significant reduction in funding which has recently hit local authorities hard, combined with an increased cost in cases – both of which risk a negative impact on those whose lives are affected by the courts. He says, “They have had to find more efficient ways to run cases and better ways of working. The public has suffered from significant delays in the past because of the anachronistic way the system worked.”
It’s estimated that a child care case could set a local authority back £1200 at least in the cost of preparation and delivery of court bundles, which could be reduced to around £400 if the process was fully digitized. Rolled out across more courts in more boroughs, the savings could readily ‘run into the millions’.
And of course, the scheme could not have gone ahead with appropriate developments in legal tech. Speaking about the need for courts to ensure their tech is able to facilitate innovative schemes of this nature, ProjectFusion managing director Angus Bradley said, “The court system hasn’t moved to digital before now as the quality of the technology did not warrant it. Now, however, the technology to effect this change has arrived using the very latest digital data room and document bundling systems, backed by the highest quality support.”
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