Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, has hinted criminals could be interrogated via Skype in the future to cut costs of hearings

Skype in courtrooms to help cut trial costs

Video-call technology such as Skype and FaceTime could be introduced to the UK’s courtrooms to allow criminal defendants to take part in court hearings from home.

In his first press conference, the new Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, said using applications such as Skype and FaceTime would be an innovative method of bringing down the cost of administrative hearings held in the run up to a trial.

Lord Thomas, who succeeded Lord Judge on 1 October, suggested lawyers, prisoners and defendants released on bail could all communicate with the court using the technology.

"There are innovative ways of actually providing open justice bearing in mind things such as Skype and Facetime,” Lord Thomas said.

"We need to loosen up our use of Skype and Facetime, which current IT systems don't really allow,” he said, explaining using Skype in some hearings would also help handle security issues

"A lot of the difficulties we have... is that to make a court case work well you need a pre-trial hearing, but it is often very expensive to get a prisoner or a person who is out on bail to come to court, to get the lawyers to come to court and I think a lot of this can be solved by the use of technology," he said.

Lord Thomas has chosen Skype and FaceTime due to the low cost of the technology compared with that of CCTV

"CCTV, especially dedicated, is very expensive and one of the difficulties we had is instead of using cheap technology, we go in for over-engineered solutions supposedly mandated by security concerns," he said.

In the future, Skype-based interrogations could be first introduced in pre-trial hearings

Discussing cost-savings, Lord Thomas said the IT in courts is "not the most modern" and "significant investment" is needed.

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