As IP communications become more widespread with trends like VoIP and video conferencing becoming the norm, it is no surprise to see it put to legal use. Scotland’s judicial branch is focusing on internal improvements to become more modern and efficient using digital solutions. The government published a short piece of literature entitled The Digital Strategy for Justice in Scotland, stating their main purpose is to provide “a modern, user-focused justice system which uses digital technology to deliver simple, fast and effective justice and value for money, across the full extent of administrative, civil and criminal justice.”
One of the main changes to the current infrastructure, as outlined in an article by The Herald Scotland, is the addition of video conferencing facilities to every court in the country. Representatives say video conference links will allow evidence to be presented remotely, eliminating the need for it to actually be transported to a court or police station in many cases. This technology will also allow people to communicate with their lawyers on a more timely basis, and pave the way for remote testimony. The latter application will be utilized much more sparingly as many believe the face-to-face aspect of testimony needs to be retained for most situations other than expert witnesses.
The Scottish government also plans to digitize much of the data that is used in daily proceedings though the creation of a digital evidence vault. As a universal digital storage solution for documents as well as audio, video and picture content, it can nullify almost all problems that arise with misplaced or misfiled evidence and make access much more efficient. As a result, trials and hearings can occur over much shorter time spans.
The strategy also accounts for improved network infrastructure, particularly ensuring that high speed Wi-Fi is available in every court and all related buildings. Currently, many lawyers can be found searching outside the courthouse for a hotspot, which is unacceptable in this day and age for a government-run entity. By extension, there are plans to make sure that there is ample 3G network coverage in each of the aforementioned locations.
Rising costs and extensive delays in proceedings have plagued the Scottish judicial system for quite some time now, and the Digital Strategy for Justice hopes to confront both of those issues. Aside from implementation costs, the government foresees savings of £20 to £25 million per year in addition to lowered fuel costs and carbon emissions as a result of digital solutions. Alongside drastic reductions in many of the unsatisfactory delays that anger or annoy all involved parties, these improvements have the potential to revolutionize Scotland’s court system and turn it into a global role model.
Of course as with any complicated transition, this will not all unfold at once. The strategy details a plan for meeting specific targets over the course of a couple years, with all objectives being met by the end of 2016.
Edited by Maurice Nagle