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National Transcription Service

In focus topic on the NTS

The National Transcription Service (NTS) has introduced significant changes to the transcription of evidence in New Zealand courts.

The NTS has reduced both jury trial and district court hearing times and has improved value for money as well as the court experience for court users.

Background

Court transcripts provide a record for key court users and the judiciary. They need to be accurate and available quickly.NTS equipment

Before the NTS, court fixtures were usually covered by a Court Reporter or Judge’s Associate transcribing in the courtroom. Establishing NTS in July 2007 increased transcription capacity across jurisdictions and digitally supported “behind the scenes” transcription was established at a consistent level across New Zealand.

The move to the NTS and digital recording means that courts can operate at talking speed rather than at typing speed.

The NTS can provide a court transcript as the court fixture is happening, as well as provide full transcripts after the fixture has closed for the day. This is known as “contemporaneous” or “non-contemporaneous” and is provided for:

  • all Supreme Court proceedings
  • the High Court
  • 56 out of 64 District Court sites
  • some Environment Court cases.

The Ministry is currently undertaking work that will connect the National Transcription Service to a further ten district courts and some specialist jurisdictions.

How it works

The NTS works by digitally recording court proceedings. Ministry court reporters can ‘listen in’ from around the country.

Court reporters in any location can transcribe a hearing from an NTS-connected courtroom, either during the proceedings or afterwards.

The national workload is managed through a central scheduler. Work is completed through a network of Court Reporter units, the largest being two Service Centres – one in Wellington and one in Auckland – and at court sites throughout the country. The system:

  • shares the workload of all court reporters, and
  • ensures more consistent national standards.

“For the Record” technology

The digital audio technology required – known as “For the Record” (FTR) – has been installed in more than 80 courtrooms around New Zealand. Court Reporters can access log notes in the system which detail physical events within the court, such as changes of witness.

The system is tested before each use. Court Reporters working remotely can contact staff in the courtroom via online instant messaging if they have any points of clarification.

Benefits

  • Using digital audio technology means evidence in court can proceed at natural speaking speed, speeding up trials
  • Improvements in transcription provision have decreased the amount of time it takes to hear a jury trial by 15 per cent in the High Court and 14 per cent in the District Court
  • The ability to control playback means that witnesses are not required to repeat evidence, which in turn can improve the in-court experience
  • Increasing speed means more court time is available
  • A lack of local transcription staff doesn’t restrict hearing schedules
  • National standards for transcription documents and processes keeps quality consistent across courts and jurisdictions
  • Court records are easier to access.