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Video Conferencing an Essential Tool Before, During and After Trial

Cameron Smith
March 2, 2017

Prison visits with a relative peering through dilapidated Plexiglas at a disgruntled convict are a dated movie cliche.

And no classic courtroom drama would be complete without a last-ditch effort to track down an important witness.

These tropes play out time and again – the key to the entire case lies with one witness, who at the last minute either becomes too frightened to appear, or even flees, stranding the protagonist lawyers! Or the dramatic inmate makes a plea for their innocence during a visit!

It makes for exciting viewing, right?

In the real world, things are nowhere near as dramatic. But that doesn’t mean reluctant witnesses, or visits to prison aren’t a reality.

And even willing witnesses or mundane inmate visits sometimes are limited by distance, mobility, and other issues.

But as they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and in this case, necessity gave birth to video conferencing for the courtroom.

That’s right – what was previously purely the realm of science fiction is becoming a reality in modern law practice.

Over the last few years, video conferencing in court has grown exponentially in popularity as its quality and reliability has risen.

Video conferencing provides an enormous benefit in the court room for everyone involved, even after the original trial. It provides the benefit of high-quality face-to-face communication, while solving a number of problems traditionally faced.

Here’s how it’s being used, and making the job of lawyers, their witnesses, and the lives of inmates a little easier:

Convenience before the Courtroom

There’s a lot of work that goes in before a case goes to trial.

This involves an enormous amount of preparation between lawyers and their witnesses, frequent meetings, and dozens of collaborative meeting to ensure accuracy and consistency of testimonials.

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Even over short distances arranging these meetings in a time frame that works for both the lawyers and witnesses can become difficult. This problem is compounded by out-of-town witnesses who are hindered by travelling.

Not only does this save on time and money for both witnesses and the lawyers working with them, it also facilitates more flexible scheduling.

With meeting rooms in high demand and low supply, the convenience of a video conference from internet accessible devices is making scheduling easier and more efficient than ever before.

Video conferencing has proven to be a huge boon for legal collaboration prior to the actual court date, as its increased adoption is only making it easier.

A Safe and Comfortable Buffer

There’s an unfortunate consequence of being a witness in court that often goes unaddressed.

If you were victimized by the person on trial, you’re forced to confront them in person by acting as a witness for the prosecution.

This is an especially delicate situation for victims of sexual assault, who often bear the mental and emotional trauma long after the physical wounds have healed.

It can be extremely distressing to see your assailant, even in the context of a courtroom where your testimony may be invaluable to justice being done.

Lawyers video conferencing

In-court appearances can be intimidating and traumatic for victims of assault.

Thankfully, video conferencing is providing the perfect solution.

By allowing for witnesses to testify remotely in court rooms, victims no longer have to be seated mere feet away from their assailant.

Not only does this facilitate their comfort, it also allows for a composed witness who can give a clear and accurate testimony.

Further, courtroom video conferencing allows the judge and jury to accurately gauge the reactions to questions from the witness and develop an accurate opinion of the responses.

Courtroom video conferencing is a major step forward in ensuring the safety and comfort of victims who have to appear in court, without harming the proceedings.

Bringing the Trial Closer

Not every lawyer has the luxury of having access to a witness within easy travelling distance of the courthouse.

Bringing in the right person to testify means occasionally reaching far and wide, and this can often cause strain on both the finances and time of the witness.

A perfect example of this occurred in 2012 during a child custody hearing when Linda Veronica Paiva could not afford to make the trip from Denmark to Toronto to make her case.

Luckily for her, the Judge permitted her to use Skype to call in so she could still attend the trial. However, services like Skype are far less reliable than video conferencing.

Proper video conferencing allows for a high definition, highly reliable experience with less downtime and errors than its free, low-tier kin.

Obviously, in a setting as dedicated to accuracy as a court hearing, having proper video conferencing is a must.

With the advances in technology, lawyers can access witnesses from anywhere, saving them great expense.

Connecting Inmates and Families

The life of an inmate isn’t supposed to be luxurious — after all, that’s sort of the point of prison.

But it needn’t be a draconian form of punishment, for the inmates or their families who wish to see them. Problem is, once a trial has concluded and the sentencing carried out, there’s very little assurance the prison where the inmate will be carrying out their sentence will be remotely close to their family.

Phone calls are an option, but this increasingly outdated method of communication just doesn’t provide adequate intimacy for family members. And not everyone can afford to take the day off to visit. With video conferencing, face-to-face communication is entirely possible, free from barriers normally posed by geography.

It’s not just for the comfort of inmates and their families, however. Video conferencing also offers a practical alternative to transporting convicts to and from court for appeal and re-trial procedures. Just like witnesses, inmates can use video conferencing-equipped prison units to appear in trial.

Even after the original court appearance video conferencing is allowing for more efficiency and flexibility in the legal system.

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The legal world is one that’s fast paced, dynamic, and demanding.

Video conferencing seeks to improve how it works by providing a solution which makes witnesses and the legal teams organizing them have more access to collaboration and communication than they’ve had before.

During the trial itself, video conferencing is frequently being used as a reliable means of allowing remote witnesses to testify without the enormous expense of travel.

But it’s about more than just ease of use.

For victims that have to testify against their assailants in court, just being in the same room can bring back memories of trauma and cause mental distress.

Video conferencing is more and more frequently acting as a buffer to permit the victims to feel comfortable while also ensuring justice is carried out.

It’s clear that law practice and video conferencing are a perfect match.