Video promises 'enormous' cuts to court costs

Supreme Court boasts evidence playback and live audio and video feeds

Video conferencing is expected to produce major cost savings in trials at the new Supreme Court building in Wellington, opened in January.

Lawyers will be able to present submissions from remote locations, and expert witnesses similarly able to present, eliminating air travel and accommodation, as well as reducing downtime for witnesses travelling from overseas.

Supreme Court registrar Gordon Thatcher describes the cost savings achieved through video conferencing as “enormous”.

“As a national court, the Supreme Court often requires counsel from outside the Wellington region to present submissions. With the video conferencing set up, they no longer need to allow a full day’s travel to attend what may be only a one-hour hearing.

“The system enables more than one location to be linked in simultaneously, so we can have lawyers in multiple cities around the country presenting their submissions remotely.”

The court complex incorporates the historic old High Court building as well as the new construction.

Vendor Evidence Technology provided four-channel audio and video capture, with recordings from each of the five judges and counsel presenting submissions.

There is also an advanced sound reinforcement system.

Each judge has an LCD monitor to enable replay of evidence as desired. There are live audio and video feeds for the media and to public viewing facilities in the court foyer.

As well as installing the permanent evidence capture technology in the main courtroom, Evidence Technology designed a mobile system that can be deployed as needed in the old High Court.

“This provides us with high-quality digital evidence recording and playback facilities without compromising the heritage values of the building in any way,” Thatcher says.

Pending a law change, video links will be set up between courtrooms and prisons so evidence can be delivered remotely instead of having prisoners transferred to courts.

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