The government has announced that people visiting 31 of its criminal courts will be able to easily access its 'enhanced' Wi-Fi - but lawyers have been advised to connect to the network before they go into court.
HM Courts & Tribunals Service said today that it is three months into a three-year programme to provide faster Wi-Fi in all criminal courts by 2021. The 31 courts with 'full-building coverage, improved bandwidth and a resilient design' include Birmingham, Bristol, Croydon, Kingston upon Thames, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Reading, Sheffield, Snaresbrook, Teesside and Woolwich.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice told the Gazette that enhanced coverage is in the process of being rolled out at the Old Bailey, but not yet live due to the 'unique challenges' of the building.
Court visitors can access the network from a single log-on. They must text 'GO' to 07537 417417 to set up a GovWifi account. If a court has GovWifi, it will appear as an available network on a person's device and can connect automatically.
Up until now, only civil and family courts and tribunals have had 'full building' coverage.
HMCTS said: 'Feedback has been positive and the earlier than previously planned rollout of GovWifi to all courts, even where WiFi has not yet been upgraded to full-building coverage, has already benefited local authority advocates, youth offender teams, presenting officers, UK visas and immigration in the Home Office, CAFCASS, and legal professionals visiting our court and tribunal buildings.
'We recognise that where Wi-Fi has not yet been upgraded, the bandwidth is not yet sufficient for downloading large case files and video clips but this will be improved as the infrastructure programme is delivered.'
HMCTS says 30,000 people connect to the Wi-Fi in criminal courts each week, and 16,000 in the civil and family courts, exchanging 66 terabytes of data - the equivalent of more than 29 million typewritten pages or 106,000 CDs.