Court IT needs funding

Public funds should be made available to finance use of computerised transcript systems because of their help in slashing the cost of complex City trials.

Transcript systems can reduce time taken in and out of court, according to top lawyers speaking at the recent The Lawyer conference 'Operating a profitable litigation department'.

However, Government funding agencies seem wary of the extra front-end costs despite overall savings, they say.

David Farrer QC, of Stephen Coward QC's set at 2 Crown Office Row in the Inner Temple, recounted the work on a multi-hand fraud case in Maidstone where use of the LiveNote transcription system helped reduce the overall trial length to three months from the estimated four and a half.

“What troubles us is that there are signs that major funding authorities such as the LCD, the CPS and others are all too aware of up-front costs, and do not appreciate the huge savings of cutting a month off the fees of silks, juniors and solicitors that will have to be paid from the public purse,” said Farrer.

He added: “I hope that public funding bodies are not going to let issues of 'who is going to pick up the tab' stand in the way.”

The Legal Aid Board is considering the issue. Alison MacNair, policy adviser to the LAB, says: “We are aware of the benefits and potential for shortening trials. But we do not have the statutory powers to find more than part of the cost. We are taking up the question at the criminal justice sub-committee of information technology in the courts.”

Wilde Sapte partner Philip Rocher says the LiveNote system is “a sophisticated tool” which speeded up work on the 12-week Gooda Walker trial – the leading case in the Lloyd's litigation.

Mr Justice Brooke, chair for the Society of Computers and Law, said after the conference that the message was reaching judges and the Government.