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Our "hi tech" courts - cause for celebration?

View profile for Paul Fox

Our ‘hi tech’ courts – cause for celebration?


Though the courts retain many of the outward symbols of tradition – the wigs and gowns, the deferential clerks, such deliciously old-fashioned legal phrases as ‘going on a frolic of his own’ - the modern lawyer will be pleased but unsurprised to discover that at least half of all British courtrooms are now officially classed as ‘hi tech.’


Good news indeed – though it does beg the question ‘what constitutes hi-tech in the courtroom context’?


According to BACPO (the British Association of Public Safety Communications Officials – not, we confess, an organisation with which we are very familiar), the rollout of digital presentation enabled by wi-fi is expected to be completed nationwide by June 2015. By using digital presentation tech – usually the wireless ‘ClickShare’ technology - lawyers are able to use their own laptops and other media devices to show material on the screens in the courtroom. This enables lawyers to exercise a greater degree of control, and helps guard against all the inevitable tech problems encountered when switching between devices, or relying on unfamiliar hardware.


Increasing use of digital media during a trial is generally thought to be helpful: effective, timely, proportionate, relevant and well-presented media can assist all those involved in following the proceedings – not only the defendant and witnesses, but the jury, the public, and legal teams.


Perhaps more usefully (and excitingly) for lawyers and legal professionals, the installation of professional court user wi-fi is currently being rolled out across England and Wales, and expected to be completed by March 2016.


Users will need to register for the Criminal Justice Secure eMail (CJSM). Once they have done so, they will be able to request access to a wi-fi network solely for the use of legal professionals (and other court professionals) within the court, to connect to the internet and – crucially – their own network and IT systems.


The implications of this are obvious and very welcome. No only will it help facilitate better collaboration across the Criminal Justice System, it will contribute to the ongoing drive towards more efficient and cost-effective ways of working.


Not least of all, the need for hard copy documentation – a time-consuming and burdensome process which is inevitably expensive – will be significantly reduced. The use of digital bundles and eDisclosure will be greatly enhanced by a secure wifi network available for courtroom professionals, and will benefit the public by helping secure faster and less costly proceedings.


There will be inevitable security concerns, and it is to be hoped that the courts will ensure their cyber security methods are fully up to the task, and moreover constantly upgraded and assessed. But for those who – like we at Legastat – understand that the future of the legal profession lies in combining the long-held traditions of our criminal justice system with a willingness to embrace legal tech, this can only be good news.


If you are looking to ensure that your legal services are fully adapted to the demands of the modern world, contact the litigation support professionals at Legastat now for expert advice.