Video plans dangerous say lawyers

LAWYERS have voiced concern that the use of videoconferencing to examine witnesses at trial and conduct prison interviews will be abused.

Solicitors involved in the pilot scheme at three prisons – in Bristol, Manchester and Swindon – say there is a serious risk of conferences being monitored.

Andrew Catzen, a partner at Moss & Co, says clients are often not prepared to disclose sensitive information when giving instructions via a videoconference.

It is also feared videoconferencing, currently being piloted by the prison service for pre-trial hearings in magistrates courts, will be extended to full criminal trials.

“I'm pretty sure that the Government, on costs gro-unds, will be looking to bring this in,” says Catzen.

The costs of transporting prisoners to and from trial would be greatly reduced. However, Richard Woolfson, a Home Office consultant, denies there is an imminent plan to introduce it.

Michael Kaye, senior partner at Kaye Tesler, believes videoconferencing represents the future of litigation.

Stephen Irwin QC, who chaired a recent discussion on the subject at his Doughty Street Chambers, says it is essential to cross-examine a witness in person.