Courtrooms to go fully digital by 2016 – about time

Any journalist covering court who’s ever experienced the frustration of proceedings being held up simply because a crucial document was missing will be relieved to hear that this scenario may, by 2016, become a thing of the past.

Courtrooms in England and Wales are set to go fully digital by then, so instead of lawyers or judges having to call for an adjournment to get hold of the necessary file, they will being able to use secure wi-fi in courts to access all the necessary documents.

The move is part of a £160 million government plan to boost the speed and efficiency of the criminal justice system, and end an “outdated reliance on paper”.

Justice Minister Damian Green said: “Every year the courts and Crown Prosecution Service use roughly 160 million sheets of paper.”Stacked up this would be the same as 15 Mount Snowdons – literally mountains of paper.

“If we are to win in the global race this must change. It is time we move the court system into the 21st century.”

Thank goodness for that – the court system is excruciatingly slow. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve sighed in disbelief at yet another delay in proceedings – the defendant hasn’t turned up, the CPS official doesn’t have a vital document in court etc.

All the while, I’m checking my watch, hoping the case will progress quick enough to get a story out of it to help fill the newspaper as deadline approaches.
Fully digitising the courts, and preventing missing files from causing hold-ups, should at least cut down on one source of these delays, although it probably won’t be able to do anything about lazy defendants oversleeping and failing to turn up to court on time.
But anything to make justice swifter is welcome news for all parties involved in court cases – as well as make for happier reporters.
© Melanie Hall 2017