Preparing for the rise of the digital courtroom
The UK's legal system is steeped in tradition, from the wigs and silk robes worn by the lawyers to the age-old precepts that form the basis of our laws.
But with the rollout of the Ministry of Justice's criminal justice system efficiency programme currently under way, the courtroom is adapting to 21st century technology. At the core of the programme are digital storage, access to case data, digital presentation facilities, and making wi-fi a requirement. The current antiquated, physical-document-led processes form a major
obstacle to courtroom efficiency. Stacks of case materials create a massive workload for court administrators, and can be subject to human error. Misfiling, document loss, and inaccurate data entry are all more likely when dealing with huge amounts of physical documents. If data is restricted to hard copies, it is not accessible to as many people in the courtroom, hampering court procedures.
Dynamic case management systems allow clerks and other legal professionals to edit, add information, and manage case files in real time. By digitising files, data is rendered more accessible to the relevant parties, who can view crucial evidence with the click of a button. The risk of human error is reduced, while information can be managed more securely.
Courtrooms should also look to install wi-fi urgently, providing lawyers with the option to present their evidence using connected visual instruments.. Interactive projectors are a great option here, allowing lawyers to engage with their digital presentations in real time.
It is not just inside the courtroom that legal professionals can benefit from technology. Printing is still necessary in the legal setting, but it needs to be done in an efficient manner. Current processes usually involve multiple copies of a case file being produced on heavy-duty departmental printers, managed by external companies. But more
intelligent processes do exist.
A master document should be printed for archival purposes, while digital copies can be used and transferred between key stakeholders including the police, Crown Prosecution Service, lawyers, and judges.
With the need to print less, legal firms finally have the ability to transform their printing operations. Switching from centralised heavy duty departmental devices to de-centralised devices that print at the point of need enables businesses to innovate these crucial processes.
There is also scope to
increase efficiency in scanning. Most scanning is completed after a verdict has been reached, and is primarily for archival purposes. However, scanning should actually be a critical business process, enabling physical documents to be uploaded to digital portals and shared between stakeholders at high speed.
Technology enhances efficiency and minimises the
risk of administrative errors, and does so without undermining legal processes or court traditions. All rise, then, for
the digital courtroom.