Family Court video technology trial links lawyers in remote locations

Wednesday 7 November 2012, 7:36PM
By Chester Borrows

Courts Minister Chester Borrows welcomed a successful trial today of video conferencing in the Family Court.

“Web-based video conferencing is exactly the kind of technology to bring our courts into the 21st century, offering great accessibility, efficiency and convenience.  Today’s mock hearing is an important step towards a more modern court system,” says Mr Borrows.

The mock hearing was presided over by Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier in Wellington, who connected to lawyers in Queenstown, Invercargill and Balclutha.  The successful mock hearing will now be followed by a six-month proof-of-concept trial involving actual Family Court hearings, that will start next year. 

“Court services are currently built around individual courthouses and court procedures that rely heavily on people having to go to courthouses to access services and on paper and manual handling of paper files.

“Technology creates an opportunity to modernise courts and improve how we deliver services to the public. We want people to have greater choice as to how they access services and this trial is part of that modernisation process.

“This modernisation can only happen with the support of judges, and I want to particularly thank Judge Boshier for his enthusiastic support for finding new ways of running courts,” says Mr Borrows.

During the proof of concept trial, selected lawyers from Balclutha, Alexandra and Oamaru will be able to have administrative matters heard before a Dunedin Family Court judge, and later in the year lawyers from Queenstown and Gore will be able to appear before an Invercargill Family Court judge.

“Family Court only sits a couple of days a month in these smaller centres so being able to appear before judges in main centres will give people much more opportunity to progress their cases between hearing days,” says Mr Borrows.

“It also enables the courts to operate in areas without a physical courthouse so has the potential to greatly increase access to justice for rural communities.”

The trial will help determine which types of family law cases can be progressed using web-based technology. At this stage it is expected to include short cause guardianship cases, dissolutions and Child Youth and Family cases and some judicial conferences.

Lawyers will need to have a broadband connection, a PC with a web-camera and a microphone, and a quiet and secure room to participate from.