Video Links for Courts and the Legal Profession
In the past few years, it has become increasingly acceptable for Judges to receive evidence and testimonies from witnesses in both criminal and civil cases. A video conference is often referred to as a video link within the legal profession.
Here at Eyenetwork we’ve been assisting solicitors and barristers for many years, either providing public facilities for the witnesses overseas, or bridging service between the court and remote locations.
Many courts have installed video conference equipment, but pre-2000 when it was not so common, we were involved in setting up a ground breaking videoconference which created a legal precedent. Mander Hadley & Co, a Coventry based legal practice specialising in personal injury claims decided to use Eyenetwork to help set up a temporary courtroom based in Birmingham, that was complete with judge, clerk and the necessary legal, administrative and recording personnel. The video conference equipment was used to connect with a number of witnesses in Malaysia.
Paul Scott of Mander Hadley & Co said “this is a ground-breaking case. The judge found it easy to talk to the family and witnesses using the video link, and quickly put them at their ease. That was a significant benefit. He treated the occasion as though we were all in the same room, and this has to be another advantage of the videoconference.” Damages of £1million were paid to the claimant.
As many courtrooms now have video conference equipment installed it is not necessary to move the court and personnel to another location as in this instance. However the witnesses still do need to use a public video conference facility to link with the court. There are over 3000 of these public facilities around the world, they can be hired by the hour and a video conferencing services company such as Eyenetwork can arrange this.
We are often contacted by panicked interns or temporary staff who have been tasked with the job of finding a public facility but have no idea how to go about it. The process can be confusing especially when you have to liaise between the courts and other third parties who need to be involved.
How does it work?
The Judge must grant permission for a witness to give evidence via video link. Annex 3 to Practice Direction 32 provides useful guidance as to when video conferencing might be used, as well as providing detail on the process to be followed and technical considerations associated with giving evidence in that way.
Giving evidence through a video link is typically considered suitable in cases where the following outcomes can be achieved as a result of using that technology:
- Savings in costs
- The avoidance of public disruption
- The facilitation of early listing.
In the past, video conferencing has been deemed suitable in cases which:
- Involve vulnerable parties - such as hospital patients or children
- Involve overseas parties
- Involve prisoners
- Are of a particularly urgent nature, in which the parties cannot readily attend court.
Once all the details (date, start time, duration) are agreed, a video conference facility convenient to the witness will need to be booked or if the witness is in a remote location, or unable to travel to a facility they can be connected from their own personal device such as a laptop or iPad. A test is always made prior to the date of the hearing, to assure good quality of sound and image. During the trial, the video link is monitored by specialists to resolve any issues that may arise.
The witness does not require any technical knowledge, they only need to be present and focus on their role in the hearing.
Connecting a witness remotely can also benefit their ability to give evidence. For some witnesses, travelling to the court and testifying can be a stressful experience, so giving evidence via video link can help to greatly reduce this, resulting in more relaxed witness and subsequently a better testimony. In the case of the Malaysian trial quoted above, as there were over 10 witnesses, as well as the financial cost of flying this number of people over, there would have been a high emotional cost returning to the country where a traumatic event took place.
Connecting with Courts
In most cases, connections to courts are made via a bridging service. The bridging service will connect sites on differing ISDN and IP networks as well as ensuring all sites are successfully connected. It tests with the sites pre-trial and provides technical support to resolve any issues that may occur.
Who is Eyenetwork?
Eyenetwork is a video conference service provider aiding the legal profession since 2000 by:
Eyenetwork connects to courts all over the UK and the world on a daily basis and has an experienced client oriented team who aim to make the process simple and straightforward for our customers. With the help of our bridging service we connect to courts, facilities and laptop participants and ensure that their video conferencing experience is positive and successful.
Author: Lisa Honan, Managing Director