The NSW Law Society President says that the legal profession welcomes the NSW Government’s planned upgrades to technology in Local, District and Supreme courts across the state, particularly in regional areas where up-to-date digital resources are lacking.
President of The Law Society of NSW Pauline Wright said the savings generated by the greater use of Audio-Visual Link (AVL) technology should be deployed towards reducing prison numbers through diversionary, alternative sentencing options and rehabilitation programs.
Ms Wright said the use of AVL could reduce time and costs. Litigants need not attend the court for routine procedures and applications.
Costs associated with bringing expert witnesses from other locations and transporting accused persons for minor court appearances could also be saved.
Giving evidence via AVL from safe rooms in appropriate circumstances also lessened distress to vulnerable witnesses, she said.
“However too much reliance on AVL could adversely affect access to justice for particular sectors of our community,” Ms Wright said.
“This includes people in many regional and remote communities who do not have ready access to high-speed online services and, of course, people with limited digital competency. This could particularly affect disadvantaged people, older people, people with disabilities and some Indigenous people.”
Ms Wright said face-to-face court appearances were critical in many circumstances including contested criminal trials.
“There is also a concern that using AVL from jails can prejudice accused persons seeking bail, Ms Wright said.
“Appearance on a screen by video can have a depersonalising effect compared to seeing a person ‘in the flesh’. A person appearing remotely can also be less engaged with the process in court.”