Outraged judges say tape recorders not an option

The Lord Chancellor’s Department has outraged judges and barristers by proposing to replace court stenographers with tape recorders.

A Court Service consultation paper issued last month proposed the introduction of tape recorders. It wants to abort an existing programme which has seen traditional shorthand typists replaced by a computer-assisted transcription system (CAT) in 177 of the country’s 526 courtrooms.

It had thought the system would be more efficient but now says: “The cost of CAT has not been justified.”

Tape recorders, says the paper, can be operated by existing court clerks so outside contractors would not be required.

But judges and barristers are concerned that defendants could be acquitted if a mistake was made in tape recording the original proceedings.

Brian Watling QC, resident judge at Chelmsford Crown Court, said Crown Court judges believed the plan was “potentially disastrous and would lead to miscarriages of justice”.