The government has said that courtrooms in England and Wales will be ‘fully digital’ by 2016, ending reliance on paper documents. This will involve wi-fi provided in all courts so digital documents can be easily accessed and scrutinised.
A pilot of the ‘digital court’ scheme, where members of court used tablets and digital files to go through cases, has been running at Birmingham Magistrate’s Court since March. The pilot has been viewed as successful and will be quickly rolled out next year to all courtrooms.
Further investment reflects the government’s priority to speed up the court system and avoid delays to justice. The change will also lead to courts avoiding adjournments due to missing papers.
The courts and Crown Prosecution Service currently use approximately 160 million pieces of paper every year, which would measure 15 times higher than Mount Snowdon when stacked up.
However, concerns have been raised over security issues – a system crash or a malicious hack could lead to extremely serious consequences, including confidential information being accessed and even tampered with.
Further investment is being made into digitising the court system beyond next year, with Chancellor George Osborne announcing a further 700m of government spending on digitising courts in his Autumn Statement, including creating online virtual courts for small, high volume offences such as TV licence evasion.
Another pilot scheme at a Family Court in London carried out seventy small local authority care proceedings without paper documents, with all documents being accessed online. It was declared a success and will be rolled out across London and beyond over the next few years.