This week is a bit of a landmark in the context of the law and technology. The Supreme Court, the highest court in the UK, has launched it’s own YouTube channel. It is essentially videos of judges reading out their judgements in open court. But is this as pointless a use of modernisation as the Queen having a Twitter account? Seriously she does. Well I actually don’t think so, I think this new YouTube channel is a big positive and is an excellent use of social media for two reasons.
My first reason is making the judicial system more transparent. It has been a big focus for the Supreme Court since its creation in 2009. Cameras in court is slowly creeping in and it all started with the Supreme Court. I’m in favour of this because the media reporting of judgements is particularly poor, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been jumping up and down shouting at a newspaper report that is wildly inaccurate. Whether this is down to a lack of understanding of complex written judgements or whether its deliberate I’m not sure. But this YouTube channel should correct both.
Things are easier to explain orally than written as you can hear the persons intonations and the emphasis they give to certain words, which make complex reasoning easier to grasp. Also the public will have a greater access to the judgements and be able to form their own opinions based on the word of the judges not the Chinese whispers approach we have now in the media. Public opinion is important as it influences Parliament who make the laws, if the public are misinformed then their opinion can be wrong. That leads to ministers making wrong decisions based on political decisions.
The second reason is more personal to me as a former law student. Quite often law students have to read cases and judgements which can be 30, 40, 50 pages long, some are even more. As you can imagine wading through all those pages to find a two line quote you can use for your essay can be frustrating and extremely laborious. It also costs a pretty penny in printing. I’ve found myself having to do this less now I’m training for practice, you tend to only need the principles not the entire case, but occasionally it is called for. So it is incredibly useful to have the judge sitting there in a video on YouTube reading you the judgement.
The legal system at present is trying to utilise technology. Every court now has facilities for people to appear in the court room through a video link, it takes about 45 minutes to start working but it works. We are also moving toward paperless trials, rather than having massive bundles of documents you can simply have all the witness statements, expert reports etc on your tablet computer. Makes it much more portable. This new YouTube channel represents another modernisation which makes life a hell of a lot easier for students and practitioners. Obviously at the moment it is limited as at time of writing there are only 10 videos up there but as time goes on this resource will become more and more useful.
By Jack Troup