The Rise & Rise of Digital Briefs and Virtual Courts

Although the concept of digital briefs of evidence and virtual courts have been at the centre of reviews, papers and projects amongst government agencies, law enforcement and litigation firms for years, COVID19 caused a scramble to expedite the implementation of virtual courts.

 2019, a directive was issued for the Magistrates Court in Victoria on ‘Electronic briefs in Indictable Matters’ 

“With criminal cases in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria (the Court) becoming increasingly complex and requiring progressively more documentation, it is convenient and environmentally responsible for the Court to support the transition towards electronic handup briefs where it is suitable to do so. The purpose of this Practice Direction is to regulate the use of electronic briefs in indictable matters and set out requirements for the composition of the briefs.”

Her Honour Justice Fullerton – R v Macdonald (No 11) [2020] NSWSC. “The Court also expressed concerns as to how it was envisaged that witnesses would give evidence via the AVL and be cross-examined when the Court Book exceeds 7,500 pages and with an additional 79 documents marked for identification. The parties agreed to continue to work with the Court to endeavour to resolve the numerous technological challenges involved in the trial continuing at this time’

Transition to virtual court rooms was occurring before COVID-19 however in March 2020 – COVID-19 was declared a worldwide pandemic and this necessitated changes and considerable impetus to change in Australian courts

This required implementation of measures towards online or virtual litigation – the wheels of justice need to keep turning and in line with Covid compliance directions.

Courts are notorious in administrative and paper burdens and there has been a strong push before the pandemic to use technology to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the administration of justice.

It is almost certain these changes will not only remain in place but continue to be improved and expanded.

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