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Leveson's Efficiency Reforms: Tech to Play a Key Role

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Leveson’s Efficiency Reforms: Tech to Play a Key Role

Much has been made in recent months of the need to bring the court system into the twenty-first century. Juggling the need to improve efficiency and efficacy with the ever-present imperative to cut costs has proved no small task for the Ministry of Justice and the CPS – not to mention firms and chambers battling to meet the demands of the Jackson Reforms.

Add to that the need to ensure court practices adapt to suit modern working and lifestyle methods, and it adds up to an endless stream of recommendations and reforms.

Sir Brian Leveson’s latest recommendations throw sharp relief on the need to make some fairly swift changes to the court system, including penalising private security firms for persistent lateness when escorting prisoners to court, and extending the hours of magistrates’ courts (those with good memories will recall there was a brief fad for early morning and late evening sittings in the wake of the 2011 riots, but – perhaps  unsurprisingly – the trend failed to catch on).

For those who have long recognised the crucial importance of legal tech in maintaining a modern and effective legal system, Leveson’s focus on the use of technology will be welcome.

In addition to recommending an increased use of body cameras by police officers, he supports an increased use of video conferencing technology to enable hearings to take place away from court centres – and, crucially, to enable defendants to contribute to trial proceedings from within the police station. This move reflects an increased reliance on digitisation and virtual conferencing, and a recognition that what one might call the ‘analogue court’ - hefty paper bundles and in-person testimony – may no longer be the default position.

The old adage that necessity is the mother of invention has rarely seemed more apt. It’s not just the courts that are turning to tech: firms and chambers keen to thrive in a highly competitive twenty-first century marketplace – and keeping a keen eye on costs – will applaud Leveson’s focus on the importance of innovation.

At Legastat, we have always been pioneers of legal tech, and have helped many chambers and firms to address their own working practices to ensure they thrive in the modern legal landscape. With the fresh imperatives improve efficiency, and to provide the most cost-effective service to clients demanding a truly modern legal service, we are seeing increasing moves towards the use of eDiscovery, eDisclosure, 24-hour secure access to digitised documentation, and a range of other innovations.

And we applaud Leveson’s clear statement of intent regarding his reforms. Modernisation and the use of legal tech should not be done for its own sake – but for the public good. As he said, “The changes I have recommended are all designed to streamline the way the investigation and prosecution of crime is approached without ever losing sight of the interests of justice.”