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Top UK judge calls for justice system to embrace technology

Sir Brian Leveson, President of the Queen’s Bench Division and one of the top judges in the country, has called upon the UK justice system to make better use of modern technologies.

Leveson, who also headed the well-publicised inquiry into press behaviour, explained where he believes changes need to be made in his Review of Efficiency in Criminal Proceedings.

"Judges in the county court frequently conduct telephone hearings – entire lists of often dealt with in this manner – and the criminal courts are now lagging significantly behind modern practices," the judge claimed.

"There has been a marked failure on the part of the criminal justice system to utilise new and far more efficient ways of working," he added.

According to Leveson, the Justice System has attempted to remain using systems and procedures from the 19th century and for this reason, he has tried to identify ways to make the best use of skills, resources, IT and systems available to bring Justice into the 21st century.

A large proportion of his report focuses on the role of IT in enhancing efficiency in criminal proceedings, with improved remote hearings as a key driving factor.

Leveson claims that the pressure placed on courtrooms will be eased by conducting a large number of proceedings via video and audio links, noting that many other industries already conduct business meetings in this manner.

He adds that it is essential the criminal proceedings are also recorded to address a variety of needs.

“The proceedings must be digitally recorded, with easy access provided to the audio and visual archive,” the judge claimed.

“In appropriate cases, which might be all save those in which the court is dealing with purely administrative arrangements and where no specific public interest in engaged, consideration should be given to making the record general available, at least for a limited period.

“This will address the need for open justice, given remote hearings will otherwise take place in the absence of the public,” he added.

Importance Of Video

Other components of Leveson’s report include the use of video systems in prison that would prevent the need for prisoners to travel to court for hearings and the use of body-worn cameras for the Police.

However, he does not fail to acknowledge the challenges the Ministry of Justice will faces when trying to implement his recommendations.

"The criminal justice system is presently crowded with plans for future development. There are currently in the region of a dozen pilots, initiatives and schemes operating in England and Wales," the Judge claimed.

“Each has been created and implemented in the desire to improve one or more aspects of the operation of the way in which criminal justice is delivered.

“It is hardly surprising then that the review encountered what might be best described as ‘transformation exhaustion’,” he added.