Witness Perspective: Video Conferencing

 

Back in 2016, HM Courts & Tribunals Service set up a portfolio of change programmes that will introduce new technology and working practises to modernise and upgrade the justice system. By doing this, it is expected that by 2023, HMCTS expects to employ 5000 fewer full-time staff and reduce the number of cases held in physical courtrooms by 2.4 million per year. This should equate to reduce annual spending by a huge £265 million. These savings will come from requiring fewer administrative and judicial staff costs and fewer physical hearings. As well as making huge savings, HMCTS expects that their new reformed system should work better for all those involved, use court time more proportionately and make services more accessible to all users.

 

As you may have seen previously on the Eyenetwork blog, we have covered the perspectives of Judges, Defendants and Lawyers when it comes to video conferencing in the judicial sector. But what effect can video conferencing have on witnesses?

 

The Access to Justice Act, 1999 allows video conferencing to be used for civil hearings, for example, ancillary relief hearings, case management conferences, overseas or remote witnesses or in any civil cases in which the court directs the use of video and all parties involved consent to its use. It refers to the use of interactive telecommunications technologies for witness testimony via simultaneous two-way video and audio transmissions. Use of this technology allows a witness to testify from a room adjoining the courtroom via closed-circuit television or from a distant or undisclosed location through an audio-visual link.

Video conferencing enables witnesses to give his/her evidence from a remote location via video link to the court with one screen and one camera in the courtroom. Utilising this technology can have a huge impact on the emotional well-being of a witness in the run up to a court hearing. Video conferencing can also be used in the context of witness protection. Where a witness needs protection for their physical security, their emotional well-being, or to avoid direct contact between victims of witnesses and the accused, video conferencing technology can provide security for witnesses who may be anxious about facing particular parties in the court case.

As you would see in the usual courtroom setting, a judge, the defendant and the prosecutor can ask questions of the witness and see and hear the witnesses’ answers and demeanour in real-time transmission. For the witness, appearing in court via video link can be hugely beneficial. Travel costs to and from court can add up, especially if a case is ongoing and requires the witness to return to court. Not only will using video conferencing technology reduce these costs for the witness, but will also reduce costs of the CPS when a request for a refund is received.

 

For witnesses who have children, organising childcare can add additional stress onto a witness who is already anxious about appearing in court. This can be difficult to arrange, particularly if a witness cannot afford the extra costs that will be required from them for that service. At present, witnesses can claim up to £67 in refunds from the CPS for childcare. By allowing a witness to give evidence from their own homes can help reduce these upfront costs to witnesses and reduce the stress of that person and can also save the CPS money in refunding the witness in question.

Utilising video conferencing technology and implementing this into more court cases can only have a positive outcome for witnesses. Stress can be reduced in a number of ways, from nerves about going to court and facing defendants and worries of financial loss due to appearing in court. Here at Eyenetwork, we have helped thousands of solicitors, CPS and HMCTS in setting up video communication links to any court worldwide from a witness’s home or nearby location. With no prior installation required, our engineers can bring all the equipment needed, such as a laptop and an internet connection on the day of the home link and will remain on-site in order to offer any assistance needed – should any be required! Get in touch with our team today if you require a quote for our home court link services.

 

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