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Minister wants video conferencing to reduce justice system costs

The UK’s courts could cut down on costs and make it easier for witnesses and suspects to give testimony through greater adoption of video conferencing, according to Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly.

As reported by the BBC, Mr Djanogly told MPs during a brief on the planned closure of 103 magistrates and 54 county courts that the justice system had to “catch up” with the benefits of new technology. Addressing concerns expressed by committee members that the efficiencies gained from the closures would be lost by the necessary extra distance that solicitors, witnesses and defendants would have to travel, Mr Djanogly said: “access to justice isn’t just about proximity, though that is one issue.”

He has proposed that video conferencing facilities be established throughout the country, in locations such as town halls, shopping centres and police stations, streamlining court proceedings and massively cutting down on the running costs of the justice system.

“I don’t see the future being in bricks and mortar,” he said. “The justice system has not kept up with the use of technology. At some point we are going to have to catch up and that means particularly more use of telephone and video conferencing.”

The Ministry of Justice estimates that closing the courts – some 40% of the UK’s 530 court buildings, according to the Daily Mail – will save public spending £15m a year in running costs and £22m in building maintenance costs. The new system would take a similar approach to business video conferencing, with no need for participants to travel large distances at great inconvenience and centralising core functions of the system to facilitate remote input and collaboration from other locations.