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Justice goes digital

04/04/2011

Trials of digital prosecutions take place on Merseyside

The North Liverpool Community Justice Centre (CJC) went digital last month, as trials of the Merseyside CPS electronic working programme took place.

For two consecutive Wednesdays in March, paper became passe as the prosecutor and Judge conducted the court list via electronic tablet devices.

Senior crown prosecutor, Rob Girvan, who is based at the CJC, explained: "All-in-all we have successfully dealt with 36 cases over two days and these included bail and remand hearings, as well as two trials."

Rob found the tablet device he was given very easy to use. "The device I had was basically a laptop, where you can pivot the screen back on itself and fold it down to create a tablet - like an IPad.

"The easiest way to use it was to hold the device with the screen landscape or lengthwise, rather than portrait style. This meant I could view the documents, as well as the useful menus down each side of the screen. Some people may prefer to have it portrait, because it looks more like the shape of a traditional sheet of paper."  Rob said that once he got used to it, prosecuting from the device was no different in many ways than prosecuting from a paper file.

"The real differences were the benefits of having data electronically. I was able to endorse files on screen using a stylus or use touch screen technology to navigate the file. I was able to manipulate photographic evidence and enlarge it on screen to give me a clearer view of injuries in one case. In another, I was able to run CCTV from the device at the same time as it was running in the court room.  And I could quickly move from one document to another without flicking through reams of paper."

Presiding Judge of the CJC, Judge David Fletcher was full of praise for pilot. He said: "I'm by no means an IT expert; however, after some very good coaching and by using the device for a short time I found it really easy. The possibilities are endless - for example if we could have search facilities it would allow us to go straight to a place in a file.  Or if they were hooked up to the internet we could have on-line access to legal reference books too."

He also praised the people involved. "The CPS staff involved were very professional and the technical support I received was excellent."

Duty defence solicitor on the first pilot was Peter Mitchell from Canter Leven and Berg. He added his support for the initiative saying: "In my view the presentation of the case was considerably enhanced with the prosecutor and Judge having all relevant material to hand. Whilst we did not operate in the same way, it did not detract from our being able to follow any material referred to."

ends

For more information contact Sharon King, Area Communications Manager, CPS Mersey Cheshire, on 0151 239 6465.