Booth wants Number 10 video suite

CHERIE Booth QC wants to install the Bar Telecom Network in 10 Downing Street, she announced during the launch of the video conferencing equipment at the Inner Temple on Thursday.

The network is a cable-based system that can handle video conferencing and other online services, as well as ordinary telephone calls, cheaply.

It has been piloted in London, Birmingham and Southampton since February, where it is linked to 40 chambers and some prisons.

Booth, vice-chair of the Bar services and IT committee, said: “I have used the network myself and found it very useful, although there are sometimes difficulties with it. I would certainly use it again and I would love to install it in Downing Street, but it is not up to me.”

The committee demonstrated the system by showing an interview between a “client” at Shrewsbury Prison and his QC in London, and a judicial application from a chambers in Southampton to a Queen's Bench Master. This was followed by a high-tech four-way question and answer session.

Demonstrator Heather Hallett QC, vice chair of the Bar Council, said: “You get a far better rapport and can instill confidence in the client better by speaking face-to-face.”

The response of the Masters had been unanimously positive although lawyers themselves had been “proving somewhat conservative”, said Master of the Queen's Bench Division, Nigel Murray, who also took part in the demonstration.

The Bar Council now wants the Home Office to run another pilot, said IT committee chair Stephen Hockman QC. A court held solely by video link was now possible but had not yet been envisaged, he added.