Transcriber wins franchise to sell court display podium

COURT transcription service Smith Bernal has held talks with several City law firms with a view to introducing high-tech US-style "litigators' podiums" into the UK courts.

Smith Bernal – the supplier of on-line court transcription service LiveNote – has won the franchise to distribute technology supplier DOAR Group's Document Evidence Presentation System (DEPS), which is said to command 80 per cent of the US market in computerised evidence presentation systems.

Another evidence presentation system – Valid Information System's R/KYV – is currently being piloted by Inland Revenue lawyers working on a Southwark Crown Court fraud trial.

However, while both DEPS and R/KYV allow lawyers to display and highlight evidence on monitors around the court room, there are significant differences between the two systems. R/KYV is a full litigation support system which is used by the lawyer to electronically document and search across files throughout the preparation and presentation of the case. DEPS is simply used as a courtroom display system.

Valid's managing director Bill Cannings said his firm provided a similar system to DEPS for the US Justice Department, but said he had felt the system was "too flash for Britain at the moment".

The DEPS system is stored on a portable podium which, its manufacturers claim, can be wheeled into court and linked to any computer system.

The lawyer using the podium can switch between static images and video footage or the Internet, and can draw on the screen using a special pen. The judge has control over what is shown and can exclude the jury from viewing certain evidence.

Smith Bernal chief executive Graham Smith said several UK firms had shown interest in DEPS, including Herbert Smith. He said it could be used in civil cases where parties could share costs.

Herbert Smith professional support lawyer Tanya Correia said DEPS could speed up court proceedings and was in tune with the Woolf reforms.

DEPS is currently used in the New York Supreme Court and several US district courts.