Digital Transformation in the Judicial Sector
In the last decade, we’ve seen digital technologies transform the way we communicate with each other. Not only has it helped businesses boom, connected individuals across the globe and delivered increasingly advanced services in education and health care, but digital communication technologies are also now starting to impact our judicial systems and sentencing processes, for the better.
HOW HAS DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY BEEN USED IN THE JUSTICE SYSTEM SO FAR?
Since 2017, Judges have been granted the power to sentence criminals over the internet with the help of video linking. The transformative power of the digital means that court hearings will cut costs in terms of travel, reduce the risk of transport security for high-risk detainees, and is a more reliable form of data transference compared to paper. Another major advantage of digitising our judicial systems is accessibility — video linking ensures that anyone with a secure internet connection will be able to securely sign in to court hearings, removing substantive challenges faced by physical court cases.
WHAT TECHNOLOGY IS AVAILABLE NOW FOR THE JUDICIAL SECTOR AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
At EyeNetwork, we can offer you an alternative laptop link solution. The program works on a similar principle to Skype, but it creates a secure connection which we then link into the courtroom. We connect the witness from their own personal device (this can be a laptop, tablet or even a smartphone). All that is required is a stable internet connection and a device with a working camera and microphone. The laptop link is a frequently used service with the UK courts, as it is easy to set up and causes minimal disruption, as well as being a very cost-effective solution.
DOES TAKING JUSTICE ONLINE SHORTEN THE SENTENCING PROCESS?
It is widely recognised by users of video technology that taking justice online does shorten the sentencing process by allowing already jailed defendants to attend court hearings. Instead of having to transport the defendants / witnesses they can now simply attend the trial via a ‘live link’. The defendants will be escorted into adapted conference rooms, police stations or vans and buses specially converted to act as a travelling courtroom. The video conferencing equipment is specifically designed to prioritise safety and privacy, through curtained windows and sound-isolating spaces, and the mobile element of these ‘video vans’ will mean that defendants and witnesses alike will now be able to remotely participate in potentially life- changing court hearings without the stress or restrictions of travel, minimising cost and maximising efficiency.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES FACED BY TAKING JUSTICE ONLINE?
The question is, how do we reduce digital exclusion? Lord Justice Briggs’ final Civil Courts Structure Review report emphasised that ensuring access to justice was one of the biggest concerns about the digitisation of court processes. The White Paper estimates that 70% of the UK population can be “digital with assistance” and/or “digitally excluded,” meaning they will need support to engage in proceedings online. Not everyone can access the internet, whether they’re homeless, detainees or simply technologically challenged, the fact remains that there are individuals in the far corners of the world that will struggle more than others to reap the benefits of our digital society.
The judicial system refuses to ignore these technological minorities, therefore, specific plans have been put in place to allow greater accessibility to the internet, and greater accessibility to justice. It is now easier than ever to get online, and strategies such as maximising a multi-channel approach to offer user access through mobile, face-to-face and paper will ensure that online justice can cater to even the most remote user, maximising accessibility, and minimising cost.
Digital communication technologies have solved many problems faced by the courts in the past, and the judicial system must remain focused on their most fundamental mission for society: ensuring justice for all their citizens. Creating online access for technological minorities is the next step in creating a secure, reliable and accurate space for sentencing to be carried out.