Lawyers to use tablet computers in court

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Judges, jurors and barristers are set to replace their traditional bundles with iPad-style devices in an attempt to create paperless courts.

Prosecutors will be given tablet devices which will contain all the evidence and documentation needed to conduct court hearings.

The scheme will later be extended to judges, jurors and defence barristers, eventually meaning courts can operate without paper.

All Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) departments in England and Wales are preparing to roll out the devices from April.

A mock trial is due to be held at Norwich Crown Court to test the system and prosecutors in Norfolk are to be given 35 Hewlett Packard tablets worth up to £1,000 each in preparation for the roll-out.

The CPS hopes the tablets will save at least £50m across the country by the time of the next parliament.

It is also hoped that police officers, who will be able to send evidence electronically, will be freed from paperwork.

Andrew Baxter, deputy chief Crown prosecutor for the east of England, said the cost of introducing the scheme was “pretty nominal” compared with the £50m that is expected to be saved, as the CPS deals with cuts of 25 per cent over the next four years.

He said: “It is the biggest change I have seen in my career prosecuting for 18 years.”

Police will send files electronically to prosecutors, who will then have everything they need in court to prosecute the defendant from their tablets.

Mr Baxter said hard copies would still be available in the early stages, in case of any glitches.

The scheme, which is called Transforming Through Technology, will involve the Courts and Tribunals Service, the police and CPS and other criminal justice agencies.

Barrister Quinton Newcomb from the eastern circuit of the Bar Council, which represents barristers in Norfolk, said: “Anything that can make the criminal justice system more efficient and give the public better value for money is to be welcomed.”