Lord Chief Justice suggests using Skype and FaceTime in courts

Letting criminal defendants use voice calling for pre-trial hearings could cut expenses for the justice system

Video-call technology such as Skype and FaceTime could be used to allow criminal defendants to take part in court hearings from home, the most senior judge in England and Wales has said. In his first press conference, the new Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, said the use of such applications could reduce the cost of hearings held in the run up to a trial.

Lord Thomas suggested lawyers, prisoners and defendants released on bail could all communicate with the court using the technology. Covering a broad range of legal issues, the Lord Chief Justice also promised to launch a public consultation on guidelines for judges dealing with defendants wearing face-veils for religious reasons.

Lord Thomas said: “There are innovative ways of providing open justice, bearing in mind things  such as Skype and Facetime.

The Lord Chief Justice said there was currently scope for use of the services at pre-trial hearings.

He said: “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, and I think a lot of this can be solved by the use of technology.”