Technology in the criminal courts – infrastructure
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The criminal courts are pushing for everything to be digitalised and to get as far away as possible from paper-based systems. In principle, and when fully operational, this would mean things are cheaper and more efficient; cases can be conducted from any location as everything is online and paper waste is reduced. However, nine times out of 10 such systems are not up to standard.
Livelink is a means by which someone can give evidence from a separate room and appear via a TV link in the courtroom in which a case is taking place. It is often used as a special measure for victims giving evidence in domestic or sexual abuse cases. Police officers also frequently use Livelink to give evidence from the station in which they work, so they can carry on with their everyday duties around giving evidence. However, the technology does not always work and the TV link between the witness and the court cannot always be established, which leads to delays and additional stress for witnesses. Another problem with Livelink is that, when the link is from a distant location (usually for the convenience of a witness who lives far away) people in the courtroom are not provided with the witness statement to read through before they give evidence. Generally, there aren’t any easily accessible scanners or printers at court, which makes matters more difficult.
Clickshare is the system used in court where advocates can project their computer onto a TV screen within the court. It is usually used to show exhibits (eg, maps of a crime scene or pictures of injuries) or CCTV or mobile phone footage to the whole court at the same time. Again, although in theory such technology is a useful tool, it often does not deliver in practice. Either the software that must be downloaded (which takes up valuable time) does not work with that particular laptop or the desired content does not display properly (ie, only displaying part of the screen or the sound not working when clickshare is connected). When clickshare works it can be very useful and saves time and printing costs and is a quick and easy way to display information.
There is a WiFi network specifically designated for professional court users, which generally works adequately. Given that many case papers are sent and stored online, access to the Internet is incredibly important. The main issue with court WiFi is that it requires you to sign in each time you enter a court (no matter how many times you have visited previously) or even move from one room to another within the court. Although in the grand scheme of things this is a relatively minor issue, it does get very tiresome having to re-sign into the WiFi for the twentieth time that day simply because you have moved from one end of the waiting room to the other.
Crown Court Digital Case System
The Crown Court Digital Case System (CCDCS) is the online database of every case in the Crown Court. The cases are created and all the information used in the case (ie, case summaries, witness statements, exhibits, skeleton arguments and defence case statements) are uploaded to the case, either so everyone involved in the case can see them, or within separate folders only accessible to the prosecution or defence teams. There have been recent complaints made on Twitter about the CCDCS being inaccessible, which has meant some people have not been able to work on cases. The problem with case information being held in one place is that when it doesn’t work, particularly over the weekend, nothing can be done for extended periods of time.