Courts in online revolution

Lisa Carty
February 3, 2008

COURT cases will be conducted live on the internet in NSW from next week.

JusticeLink, a $48 million cutting-edge computer system, will be introduced into the District Court, allowing lawyers, prosecutors, judges and magistrates to conduct procedural hearings online.

Cutting out court appearances for preliminary procedural arguments and directions would make the system more efficient, saving time and money, Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said. While trials and committal hearings would continue to be held in courtrooms, simple procedural matters to be decided online would cut the need for parties to attend court.

"Traditionally, quite a few court appearances could be required to decide procedural matters before the hearing or trial could begin," Mr Hatzistergos. "JusticeLink will allow prosecutors and defence lawyers to log into a bulletin board, where they will type their arguments.

"The judge will be alerted to their posts by email and be able to log in and make determinations in real time. While the time-honoured traditions of our legal system will remain intact, JusticeLink will streamline the process, saving an enormous amount of time and money."

JusticeLink has been successfully trialled in the NSW Supreme Court - where it saved 167 court appearances - and will be rolled out to the District Court on February 11.

Within 12 months, the computer system is expected to be operating in every criminal and civil court in NSW, including 160 local courts. Mr Hatzistergos said JusticeLink was the first multi-jurisdictional court computer system in the world, and was already being used by nine law firms to file documents in court.

"Filing motions and evidence online means all the parties to proceedings can pull up information at the touch of a button," Mr Hatzistergos said.

"When it's fully implemented, JusticeLink will dramatically reduce the justice system's reliance on paper copies of documents."

NSW Director of Public Prosecutions staff, police and officers from the Corrective Services Department would be able to use the system to "discuss" bail court appearances. JusticeLink's delivery was delayed by six months because of what Mr Hatzistergos told Parliament in November were "complications" in the project.

NSW Law Society president Hugh Macken welcomed the extension of JusticeLink, but warned privacy needed to be protected.

"It presents an enormous opportunity to reduce costs and the bureaucracy associated with the registration and filing of court documents," he said. "There are unique challenges in respect to privacy and ensuring there is control over the documents."