Improving the Justice System with Courtroom Video Technology

Written by Microsoft on 11 May 2016 in Sponsored Article
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Microsoft takes a look at how video conferencing is transforming courtroom efficiency

In many places around the world, police forces and legal systems are turning to technology to improve cross-organisational collaboration and efficiency, as well to ensure greater efficiency in the criminal justice system.

Earlier this year, Arif Harbott, chief digital and information officer at the Ministry of Justice, discussed the vital role technology is playing, and will continue to play, in the transformation of the UK justice system.

Speaking at the Government Digital Service conference Sprint16, Harbott acknowledged that prior to the introduction of the MoJ’s digital capabilities plan, the criminal justice system was a “complex proliferation of silos and systems”.

Furthermore, he said, much of that system was not only paper-based – from “a police officer’s notebook, through various printing and scanning into different systems, all the way out to a probation officer who has to print out their reports” – but less time and energy efficient.

As part of a wider series looking into fighting crime with technology we are running, we have already seen how frontline police are beginning to make better use of technology from  the way they capture, manage and share evidence from incident scenes and witnesses. This blog will look at how technology – and in particular video technology – can and is helping improve criminal justice systems.

Digital Courtrooms

In many places around the world, legal systems are turning to video footage to record trials and other court proceedings for record-keeping purposes. Moreover, many judges are allowing witnesses to testify via teleconference to create a more inclusive justice system.

Take Cook County Circuit Court in Illinois, for example. The court recently allowed a man bedridden from a stroke to testify via Skype. The man was seeking the extension of a protection order against his estranged wife, but felt too weak to get out of bed .

Likewise, the Ontario Superior Court recently allowed a witness from Denmark to testify via Skype in a child custody case. “Skype is now in HD and has an internal automatic checking system,” explains Family Lawyer Phil, who persuaded the judge to allow the testimony. “You can see people in the courtroom and they can see you. This is clearly the way of the future.”

In the UK, the first ‘digital courtroom’ was set up in March 2013 in Birmingham, with the pilot scheme including digital screens to present evidence, police to court video-links, and video technology to allow witnesses and experts to give evidence remotely. This was widely regarded as a success with the former Justice Minister Damien Green announcing a national roll-out of the system in April 2013.

Video Conferencing 

As video conferencing in the courtroom becomes mainstream, it is improving courtroom efficiency in a variety of ways. It’s expediting the issuance of search warrants. It’s speeding up arraignments, pre-trial conferences, and other court hearings. It’s allowing foreign and non-local witnesses to testify while avoiding the cost of travel. And it’s reducing the cost of transporting prisoners to the courtroom.

Yet as courtrooms increasingly turn to video technology to improve their proceedings, managing this new way of doing things can quickly turn into an administrative burden. Video-conferencing technology can be unreliable. Video storage can be expensive. And accessing the exact content needed can involve hundreds of hours sifting through vast amounts of video footage.

The good news is that Microsoft provides the advanced technology needed to help judicial systems overcome all these hurdles. Consider the following:

Capturing video: Increasingly, legal systems are turning to Skype for Business for reliable, high-quality video conferencing. Skype for Business protects conversations through strong authentication and encryption features. It offers built-in compliance for strict security requirements such as the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) standard in some U.S. versions. And it can be used even in situations in which the person appearing remotely is not on Skype for Business. All that person needs is a phone or Internet connection.

Storing video: Microsoft Azure Storage offers the durability and scalability to store large amounts of video footage at low cost. Data stored within Azure Storage is automatically replicated to guard against hardware failure. And in situations where justice systems prefer to keep their video files on-premises, Azure Storage can be used as a backup to ensure a judicial system’s video footage is always available.

Managing video: Microsoft Azure Media Services enables legal professionals to access the exact video content they need through Azure Media Indexer, a feature that uses state-of-the-art machine learning to convert spoken language in video files into a searchable text format. Thanks to this feature, legal professionals can conduct keyword searches for specific comments that were made during the conversation and obtain the exact time those words were spoken, making it easy to find those moments in the video.

As judicial systems incorporate video technology into their courtrooms, Microsoft is leading the way, helping them to reliably capture, store, and manage all this data.

To find out more about how Microsoft can help you deliver video-conferencing and telecommunications, register for our ‘The Power of Voice within Office 365 webinar’. Click here

To find out more about what Microsoft are doing for police services across the country, please visit our Cloud Policing Bubl.​Click here

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