28 Feb 2009

Judge advocates inmate court appearances via video

7:22 am on 28 February 2009

A senior judge is suggesting that prisoners make court appearances via video conferencing rather than in person.

Chief District Court Judge Russell Johnson says such a system would be safer and save millions of taxpayer dollars.

Judge Johnson says though video conferencing may not be appropriate for a trial or for sentencing, for administration purposes it would make sense for prisoners to make court appearances from prison via video.

He says this would involve installing video conferencing equipment in courts and prisons and would probably require a change in legislation.

Judge Johnson says other countries that have introduced such systems have saved substantial amounts of money.

He says video conferencing would also reduce the risk to public safety.

Criminal Bar Association president Anthony Rogers says the proposal sounds good in principle, but access within the prison system is not always easy and sometimes the court is the only place a lawyer is able to see a client in person.

The Ministry of Justice has just concluded a pilot study using video conferencing between Auckland Central Remand Prison and the Court of Appeal in Wellington.

It is now waiting for the study to be independently reviewed.