Justice Ministry sees savings in video deployment

Forecast for the next ten years

Savings of $3.2 million over the next 10 years are anticipated by the Ministry of Justice through the extended use of video within the justice sector.

Around $2 million will be spent in the next year installing the technology in courts and prisons as part of a four-year project to contain costs.

Computerworld asked the ministry for a breakdown of the likely areas of savings, specifically in transport, by avoiding having prisoners travel to courts accompanied by corrections staff; lawyers’ travel fees; and being able to videoconference in expert witnesses, rather than having them travel – sometimes from overseas – to courts.

Paula Tesoriero, acting general manager higher courts, says in a written reply that, at this stage, the savings are estimates only and work is currently underway to redefine these further.

“These estimates will be better informed through the testing of audio visual links [AVL] in Auckland District Court, due to commence following the passage of the Courts (Remote Participation) legislation,” she says.

“We anticipate savings (including future costs avoided) of $3.2 million over 10 years. These savings relate primarily to transportation and reduced prisoner preparation time and reduced counsel travel costs.

“The extended use of AVL within the justice sector provides opportunities for increased public and judicial safety, reduced costs associated with prisoner preparation and transportation, improvements in judicial process efficiency, and reduction in participative costs for other parties. For example, expert witness costs, particularly for overseas witnesses, can be in the thousands of dollars,” Tesoriero says.

The legislation, when passed, will enable any participant in a proceeding, including judges, juries, witnesses and defendants, to appear by audio-visual link, provided certain criteria are met.

The Law Society has expressed reservations that appearances via video could result in miscarriages of justice.

More than 30 courts and conference rooms have audio-visual technology, including the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal in Wellington.

A RFP for installation and support has been issued by the Ministry of Justice.

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