Judges from three continents have conducted a mock ‘virtual trial’ in an event that claimed to demonstrate the benefits of digital courts for international dispute resolution as well as domestic civil and criminal cases.

The ‘e-trial’ was chaired by His Honour Judge Simon Brown (pictured, left) from the Birmingham Civil Justice Centre and hosted by UK electronic court bundling company CaseLines (managing director Paul Sachs pictured right).

John Tanzer, South Eastern Circuit judge, played the part of counsel for the appellant; district judge David Harvey from New Zealand acted as counsel for the defendant; and Washington-based Superior Court judge Herbert Dixon was the appellant.

Participants used video technology to watch the trial and a separate screen to view case documents electronically.

Brown said the digital system has the potential to save time and money as the current paper process is ‘inordinately’ lengthy. This is particularly pressing given the stricter interpretation of cost budgeting under the Mitchell regime, he said.

Such a system would be affordable and efficient for small businesses, he added. ‘From our point of view this sort of thing could put Birmingham [Civil Justice Centre] on the map,’ he said. ‘All that is required is for [HMCTS] to provide the Wi-Fi.’

Tanzer said the use of remote access to courts is already recognised as a way of increasing access to justice in criminal cases, as it makes ‘better use of judicial and practitioner time’.

Much of the hardware is already there, he added. ‘This is something you can use through a mobile phone. The video technology might even be better than using some computers.’

Harvey said the technology would have ‘considerable advantages’ in the domestic context and ‘even more apparent’ cost savings in the international context. ‘The use of the virtual hearing technology would mean that costs in international litigation or arbitration could be significantly reduced.’