Video calling services like Skype and FaceTime have long been considered great tools for global business and long distance romance. Now a top judge in England and Whales is trying to integrate them into the court system.
As reported by The Independent, Lord Chief Justice Sir John Thomas explained in a press conference that measures to bring down costs and complications in pre-trial operations need to be examined. Justice Thomas went on to say that "innovative ways of providing open justice" should be kept in mind, invoking voice and video chat services Skype and FaceTime as examples.
“A lot of the difficulties we have... is that to make a court case work well you need a pre-trial hearing, but it is often very expensive to get a prisoner or a person who is out on bail to come to court, to get the lawyers to come to court," the chief justice said, according to The Independent. "...I think a lot of this can be solved by the use of technology.”
It's not only UK courtrooms that lack technology. The use of video chat or conferencing tools is a mostly foreign idea to court systems within the United States as well, though here it's not completely without precedent.
One defense lawyer in a 2011 Florida case, for example, arranged an-out-of-state Skype video chat for a witness in a drug smuggling case. The lawyer, Arturo Corso, pleaded lack of funds in the request of video chat for the live testimonial from the Texas man. Once approved by the judge, the defense arranged for the jury to be provided with a large, flat screen monitor to view the live witness interview.
"[The judge] studied up on this and couldn't find any rule that said you couldn't do it," Corso told the Gainesville Times.
Also in Florida, who could forget the George Zimmerman trial Skype witness mishap earlier this year? In the middle of a Colorado man's video call, some national viewers of the trial noticed the Skype
username was being broadcast on the screen and began prank calling the account, interrupting the interview.
The residing judge, Judge Debra Nelson, was not amused and eventually ordered the cross examination instead be conducted via speaker phone, according to the Huffington Post.
OMG: In Zimmerman court prosecutor trying to Skype in witness & look what happened! pic.twitter.com/2H3Gd6qxch— Kim Segal CNN Miami (@CNNkimsegal) July 3, 2013
Of course, with the English and Wales chief justice only advocating for these technologies in pre-trial proceedings, perhaps complications like the ones seen in the Zimmerman trial would be avoided. Or, at the very least, television statements could learn to blur out Skype usernames on live broadcasts.