Time is running out for the practice of leaving video suites in courts, the official in charge of computerising the justice system said last week.

Paul Shipley, IT director at HM Courts & Tribunals Service, said the Ministry of Justice is demanding that ‘cashable savings’ are realised from its investments in virtual courts. However, ‘there is evidence that video kit is not being used to the extent it should be,’ he told the Bond Solon Expert Witness Conference.

To avoid the ‘nightmare’ of a dual system, he said ‘we have a key decision to make about the way we operate’.

The ‘courtroom of the future’, he said, would rely on virtual case files and tablet computers connected wirelessly for judge and jury. There will be more sharing of data with other government departments, automated scheduling of hearings and results announced real-time on Twitter. However, courts would not go paperless ‘for the foreseeable future’.

Apart from the willingness of users, there are practical problems such as the lack of mains sockets in court buildings. IT systems need to be rationalised, Shipley said, adding that 60 different case management systems are in use where ‘we would probably need only one or two’.