NI: Ford dismisses suggestion of streaming courts online

Justice Minister David Ford
Justice Minister David Ford

Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister David Ford has dismissed suggestions that parts of court proceedings could be streamed live over the Internet.

Mr Ford was answering a question from an MLA about court reporting in the “digital age”.

Roy Beggs MLA asked the minister if consideration had been given “to putting courts online, so that the public can follow what is said in a courtroom, just like the Assembly Committees or local councils”.

Addressing a number of points, Mr Ford replied: “Mr Beggs’s latter point, though interesting, takes us into a very different area, which is around the whole issue of putting courts online.

“You will know that that has been done in only a very limited way in Scotland or in the Supreme Court when giving decisions. I think that we are long way from seeing the benefits of that.”

However, he acknowledged that developments in technology had impacted on practices in court reporting.

Mr Ford said: “In this digital age, it is possible for reporters to submit articles directly from courthouses or to avail themselves of other technologies, such as Skype. Wi-Fi access in courts outside Belfast has also been factored into the Courts and Tribunals Service future ICT modernisation programme.

“NICTS provides a specific online service for the media, allowing them to access full case details seven days in advance of the hearing. This, in addition to the services of press teams in NICTS and the office of the Lord Chief Justice, has reduced the need for reporters to attend court for every single hearing, which clearly frees up staff time.”

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