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Hamilton Ross
Solicitors and notaries
Serving Clients in Lanarkshire for over 15 Years.

Modernisation of Courts in Scotland

The Lord President, Lord Carloway in a previous address to the Law Society of Scotland’s Council, set  out his vision for courtrooms “fit for the 21st century”.

He envisions Scotland’s courts availing themselves of “200 years of technological advances” and proposed a number of ideas.

Following Lord Gill’s report, Lord Carloway discussed the use of paperless litigation systems.

“Such systems typically produce a number of advantages: the facility to lodge documents electronically; the supersession of paper processes with electronic document management systems; the introduction of electronic case files incorporating legal databases and other research tools; the use of routine correspondence with the court by email; the conduct of procedural hearings by video conference; the taking of evidence by video link; the display of documents and other materials on screen; the digital recording of oral evidence; and the electronic issue of court orders,” he said.

He added the adoption of such a system cuts out inefficiency by reducing waiting and travelling times, overcoming the “tyranny of distance” and making the civil justice system accessible to individuals and smaller corporate entities.

On the issue of modes of proof the Lord President said the arguments supporting the primacy of oral testimony were “losing relevance today, when information can be assembled and presented in recorded form using modern technology”.

He said: “In our age of technology, we must seize the moment and hold that, in the future, evidence might be presented to the court in a quite different, more advanced manner, than the appearance of the witness at court.”

He pointed to the proliferation of technologies capable of accurately recording audio and video and to their quality as evidence, saying: “which is more likely to be true: a record of an event as caught on camera and a video recorded statement made by a witness in the minutes or hours immediately following an event; or the oral testimony of a witness at a proof months or perhaps years later?”

“Why should it not be the norm, employing a procedure akin to a commission, for all evidence to be taken, in advance, in the form of a video recordings of witnesses’ accounts or of the relevant event or thing?”

On the criminal front, Lord Carloway said the “pace of change in society threatens to leave criminal procedure behind” and called for a “re-design” criminal procedure in summary cases so as to take advantage of technology.

He said a “digital evidence vault” should eventually be created which would “store and manage evidence and other information relevant to individual criminal cases”.

He also said the number of witnesses attending court must be “radically reduced” in tandem with a justice system that is digitally enabled and accommodates, for example, online submissions of guilty pleas.

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