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Audio Visual Technology

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Following the enactment of legislation in 2010, audio visual (AV) technology is now available for a wider range of hearings, and will be standard for administrative appearances, where facilities are available. While the Act enables wider use of AV technology in court proceedings, the full extent of the opportunities to do so is dependent on the availability and suitability of technology.

AV technology has the potential to generate time and cost efficiencies for many court participants, including Counsel, expert witnesses and interpreters, by reducing their need to be physically present in court. Subject to facilities being available, participants will be able to use AV technology, for example, for appearing before the court, giving evidence, providing interpretation services or observing court proceedings.

Legislation

The Courts (Remote Participation) Act 2010 enables any person appearing at court to appear by Audio Visual Link (AVL), where certain criteria are met.

Parties can apply (orally or in writing) for AVL to be used or a judicial officer or Registrar can consider the use of AVL on their own motion. There are three types of proceedings where AVL can be used:

      • Criminal procedural matters (where no evidence will be presented):
        judicial officers are required to consider using AVL where the technology is available, taking into account certain criteria (contained in sections 5 and 6 of the Act).
      • Criminal substantive matters (where evidence will be presented):
        AVL cannot be used unless the judicial officer decides to allow its use. The judicial officer must take into account the criteria in sections 5 and 6 of the Act, and whether the parties consent to its use. However, the Act specifically requires a defendant’s consent before AVL can be used if the appearance is for a trial which determines their guilt or innocence.
      • Civil matters:
        AVL can be used where the judicial officer considers that the criteria would be satisfied.

Audio Visual Links (AVL) – court to prison link

AVL generally relates to a link between a court and custodial facilities installed with AVL prison booth. The AVL court to prison link is primarily used for remand appearances and has an enhanced set up which includes a last minute hand set and instruction suite available for counsel to talk privately with their client.

AVL instruction suites and prison booths are also used for prisoners to appear as witnesses, other meetings relating to justice (for example, NZ Police or Probations) and the Department of Corrections are utilising the AVL install’s for whanau/family visits.

Installation types

Courtrooms are on one of two installation types:

Standard VC installationFull AVL courtroom
  • Historically were on the ISDN network.
  • Can be either a fixed camera and screen or a mobile trolley.
  • Fewer enhancements than full AVL (court to prison) installations.
  • During the 2015/16 year, the Ministry of Justice has been progressively migrating equipment across to the IP (internet protocol) network
  • All on the IP (internet protocol) network.
  • Fixed cameras and screens.
  • More enhancements than a standard installation, including:
    • Last minute (telephone) handsets for counsel to hold private conversations with their client.
    • Instruction suites - a separate room for counsel to hold private meetings with their client via AVL.

Instructions suites

Most Courts and Tribunals have video conferencing facilities.

Parties can apply in person or in writing to their local court to use AVL or video conferencing. A judicial officer or registrar may also consider it appropriate to use AVL.

Information for Court participants

The Ministry of Justice has developed AVL operating guidelines for District court (PDF, 700KB) and Higher court (PDF, 626KB), and it is recommended that court participants familiarise themselves with these in advance of appearing for an AVL appearance.

Judicial Protocol

The Chief District Court Judge issued a judicial protocol (PDF, 142KB) to provide guidance to judicial officers and Registrars when presiding over an AVL hearing.


AVL and In-Court Media Coverage

Applications can be made for access to the AVL feed of the defendant in custody. This is done is the same way as the process for in-court media coverage. The process for in-court media coverage is set out in the Media guide for reporting the courts and tribunals: Edition 3.1.


Contacts

All media enquiries should be directed to Public Information team.

Phone: (04) 918 8836 or (027) 689 0667

Email: courts.media@justice.govt.nz

Future proofing

Between January 2015 and March 2016 the Ministry will have completed an upgrade of existing videoconferencing units in all courts from the ISDN network to the IP (internet protocol) network. This change was made to address incompatibility and reliability issues for courts when connecting through ISDN to other courts, prisons and other remote parties on an IP network.

This change will also improve the quality of the picture and sound. It is important to note that the move to the IP network has not provided facilities that meet all standards required of an enhanced AVL courtroom that AVL prison booths were designed to connect with, but rather changes were made to improve the quality of existing videoconferencing capability.

Virtual Meeting Rooms

The Ministry now has access to a number of secure virtual meeting rooms (VMRs) to support court proceedings – most commonly remote witness appearances. VMRs enable parties, from almost anywhere in the world, to connect on a variety of devices (telephones, laptops) and networks (ISDN or IP).

Making a video conferencing booking

After the recent upgrades there are increased courts, tribunals and custodial facilities with video conferencing capability. Counsel can now request witnesses to appear by video conferencing where appropriate (after Application). This can be accommodated by use of an instruction suites, mobile trolley or external provider.

For bookings please contact your local court.