NSW Attorney General says there are limits for Court technology

According to the NSW Attorney-General, technology is unlikely to replace physical court appearances for high-stake areas as much as it has a role to play in addressing court delays. Recently, a pilot Online Court for civil cases in the Local Court General Division was approved by the NSW Attorney-General’s office. This service is relevant in the sense that it removes the need for parties to travel to the court repeatedly since it allows documents to be filed outside court hours. As a matter of fact, the online process can be used appropriately for cases that do not involve fundamental breach of a person’s liberty or safety.

On the other hand, technology has a role to play when it comes to civil justice or where people just want to resolve things in the ordinary course of their business. But the demeanour of the defendant is taken into account by the judge and jury especially in criminal proceedings. As much as technology might have a role to play in the criminal justice system, chances are very rare that it will replace the trial. However, the experience of people in custody can be improved while creating efficiencies when the use of audio-visual link is implemented. Therefore, there is also need to introduce a system that treats defendants who are accused of the most serious crime charges with humanity.

Sometimes, it might cost correctional services and police much time by shuttling people in custody back and forth to court, hence this is unnecessary since it affects the defendant negatively. For example, in Lismore, people in custody often experience a six-hour trip when returning to attend court proceedings from Grafton Correctional Centre. Gabrielle Upton, who happens to be the first female attorney-general appointed by NSW in April, told Aussie Lawyer Blog that over the past year, the NSW courts have been experiencing delays and the hardest hit being the NSW District Criminal Court. Between 2007 and 2014, trial delay in the NSW District Criminal Court increased by 34 per cent according to a report released by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. “This report was arrived at based on lots of factors including the increasing complexity of evidence and serious crime being targeted more by police due, in part, to technology,” said Gabrielle Upton. In addition, Ms. Upton endorsed the NSW Law Reform Commission’s recommendation that was made in December 2014. The recommendation suggested that appropriate early guilty pleas be encouraged.

As the court prepares for a trial that will not take place, guilty pleas made late in proceedings waste resources and time. “For the benefit of justice, it is advisable that the jury settles on a guilty plea early since it encourages minds to meet between private or public defenders and crown prosecutors around the case,” said Ms. Upton. She also said that other suggestions from stakeholders for reducing delays include creating broader jurisdiction and having judges sit longer in the local court. According to Ms Upton, addressing the “low utilisation of court assets” is a key part of the solution to delays in court proceedings.

Written by Joseph Craig

Joseph Craig is a writer, blogger, legal researcher and best-selling author of dozens of technology, law, digital marketing and self-development books and courses. You can contact him at josephcraigwrites@gmail.com

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