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Technology and the Judiciary: The Use of Technology in the Criminal Trial Process

NCJ Number
Anne Wallace
Date Published
June 2001
12 pages
This paper provides an overview of some of the technology available for use in the criminal trial process in Australia and identifies some of the issues associated with its use.
Many jurisdictions regularly use video-conferencing technology to conduct remands and hear bail applications. Its advantages include savings in transportation and personnel costs, as well as reductions in security problems and waiting times. Technologies such as electronic mail can also be applied to handle communication needs at the pretrial preparation stage. In trials that involve extensive documentation or complex relationships between business entities, computerized litigation support systems can assist in managing and presenting the evidence. To facilitate the presentation of evidence created by using computerized litigation systems, new technologies had to be incorporated into the courtroom. Australia has successfully developed a number of high technology electronic courtrooms, mainly for use in complex white-collar crime trials, multi-party civil litigation, or lengthy commissions of inquiry. One of the simpler aspects of electronic courtroom technology is the use of a digital camera or scanner to take an exhibit and display it on a screen. Technology has also assisted juries. In one case the jury was given access to two stand-alone computers in the jury room. Each had access to word processing, imaged copies of documentary exhibits, and an electronic transcript. Technology can also assist the judge. Specialized judicial support packages can provide a judge access to primary research materials, sentencing information, bench books, and other publications. To ensure that technology is used in a way that assists the administration of justice, the court must ensure that it operates on a level playing field. It is essential that the use of technology in the trial process remains within the control of the court and that the court is able to exercise that control to ensure that all parties have equality of access and an opportunity to share in its benefits.