Courtrooms in 2021 years ahead will likely evolve to become far more unfamiliar than we may remember them to be. It’s unlikely they’ll ever truly get back to how they were, with the expected adoption worldwide of new video and audio technologies that make it easier for court hearings to continue remotely, with the majority of attendees logging into the video call from their own homes.
The impact of a global pandemic has hit the legal sector hard with case backlogs stretching far and wide and logistical nightmares raising their heads in a sector that has never fully adopted video technology into it’s processes. Although there are positives and negatives to introducing video tech into court hearings and the legal process, the inevitable transition is essential if there is to be any hope of recovering from the situation we find ourselves in.
This adoption of new technology has the ability to to impact almost every individual that takes part in court hearings and legal cases including the judge, solicitors, courtroom staff, witnesses and defendants. The expected change will manifest itself in the use of video and audio from remote locations – meaning users will have to become familiar with the Cloud Video Platform (cloud software that provides the connection between remote laptops and computers with courtrooms and solicitors) and would be expected to have stable internet connections, quality audio and quality video cameras.
Job landscapes would be expected to change too and staff that are employed to work in and run courtrooms, would likely be cut back due to the drastic reduction in the number of individuals attending physical courtrooms for their hearings. With this cut back in physical courtroom staff, we would likely see a rise in the number of businesses and companies providing video technology services to the judicial sector whether that be focused on further improving video technology being used or offering training on systems that are already currently in place.
Any significant change such as this presents a range of challenges for the judicial sectors to overcome, particularly when it comes to the end user, notably those that may be hard of hearing, visually impared, individuals that are unfamiliar with using computers or video technology etc. All could struggle to easily adopt this new style of court hearing. As a result, exceptions will have to be made in certain cases to accommodate requests to attend court or for extra services to be available to help assist where appropriate.
Once the implementation is successful across the UK, there still has the potential to be further issues that will need addressing, particularly in the case of individuals using their personal devices, laptops and computers to log into the CVP. Poor camera quality and poor audio can pose a real issue for court hearings run over CVP – in some cases could lead to the case being postponed, further adding to the backlog. In addition to this, general wifi connectivity fluctuates hugely across different regions in England and the UK. To combat this, we could start seeing video rooms popping up around cities and towns that are utilised for court hearings, with attendees travelling nearby their home to these locations instead of travelling into court.
Backlogs of cases continue to pile up and the initial adoption of video and CVP to the judicial system has begun to tackle this issue. Since it’s first use, there has now been a successful implementation of the CVP (Cloud Video Platform) across 60 crown courts and 93 magistrates’ courts. This tech has been utilised for over 3,500 crown court hearings and over 7,000 overnight remand cases.
The idea of video conferencing in courts is clearly uncomfortable for some, due to the lack of face-to-face communication and unfamiliar way of interacting, for what is often, a serious situation – but we can be certain that video technology adoption is the future for the judicial sector across the world. It will be imperative to future-proof courts against similar threats to Covid-19 and ensure that everything is done to protect the judicial process to allow cases to continue to run. The UK has shown that adoption of this technology is possible, how easy this is to implement across the globe is something we’ll have to wait to discover.