Friday, December 09, 2011

Going Paperless in the UK

From the United Kingdom comes this story about a plan "to give jurors a basic 89 pound Kindle in a bid to cut down on paperwork." The idea behind the plan is to facilitate jurors' review of evidence, with the ultimate goal of creating a "paperless" court system in the United Kingdom.

As of next April courtrooms across the UK are set to "go digital" and ditch traditional paper files and case bundles ...

The plan will be to use existing court computers and secure email systems to allow the prosectuion to present its case on a giant screen from a laptop which can be seen by the judge and jurors.

"By April 2012, the aim is to have all criminal justice system agencies transferring information digitally.

This is part of work across the criminal justice system to provide a simpler, swifter and more transparent service that meets the needs of victims and the public."

There will be a "mock trial" later in December to test prosecutors' use of "tablet devices"--Kindles aren't mentioned--to communicate with police and to retrieve evidence. When the plan goes live, jurors will not get fully loaded Kindles that would allow them to access the Internet; rather, they will be issued basic units.

This approach might meet the concerns of critics of the British Kindle initiative. The first concern is that although issued Kindles for trial-related purposes, jurors might try to download novels or surf the Internet. Limited or no access to the Internet through a basic Kindle would answer this objection.

The second concern smacks of ageism. Some critics have said "that some members of a jury may not be up to speed with the technology," and couldn't be expected to learn how to use a Kindle to review evidence. A lot of training will be required for jurors in the 60-to-69 age group, and this will have costs for the court system. (In England, people over the age of 70 do not serve on juries.) Frankly, the notion that once you celebrate your sixtieth birthday, you can't be expected to use technology is ridiculous. How hard is it to use a Kindle?

1 comment:

Betsy McKenzie said...

I had trouble understanding about the 89 pound, til I read the linked article -- it means British pounds sterling, of course! Doh! What an interesting development. But you have a good point, Marie, about the ageism inherent in their assumption that people of a certain age will have trouble mastering the Kindles. It's not the years, it's what's under the hood that matters!