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Mon 16 Apr 2001 04:00 AM

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Justice Online

After e-commerce and e-government, get ready for e-justice — as Crown Courts in the UK begin a trial to allow pleas by e-mail, and introduce PCs and voice recording software to Internet enable court rooms.

As governments worldwide roll-out online services to aid citizens, another civil function is getting the e-treatment — the Judiciary. A pilot system has been launched in London, England to allow virtual reality hearings, where defendants can plead by email.

The trial is utilising computer screens for judges, jurors and lawyers to view evidence on screen, and voice capture equipment to record court proceedings. The Crown Court at Kingston-upon-Thames in West London is the first in an initial test run of twenty pilot centres, with plans to extend the 'virtual hearings' to further 78 Crown Courts in England and Wales. The aim of the court is to cut the amount of time and money spent on preliminary hearings, which are often just a formality, and can be conducted without the presence of all parties.

Terry Graham, CEO and President of VoiceIQ, the company that is providing the voice capture system, commented: "We are pleased to be working with England's crown courts in developing effective and cost efficient solutions. When you consider the many other court projects we are involved with across various jurisdictions in South Africa, Australia, the US and at home in Canada, it clearly shows that there is global demand for our court solutions."

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