Kent & Medway Coroners Court completes UK’s first paperless jury inquest using Thomson Reuters CaseLines
Kent & Medway Coroners Court has selected CaseLines, Thomson Reuters court exhibit and evidence sharing platform, to support the court’s digital transformation. The court used the platform to support a complex jury inquest held at its court building in Maidstone during November and December 2020. Using CaseLines to digitally present all documentation and evidence delivered efficiency savings and allowed the court to complete the inquest a week ahead of schedule. This was particularly significant given that the case took place at a time of rising COVID-19 cases across Kent & Medway. It’s also the first time that a jury inquest in the UK has been conducted entirely in digital format, without any need for paper-based bundles.
The court is now rolling out the system for use on all jury inquests from 1 March 2021 and all inquests from 1 April 2021. Kent & Medway Coroners Court began its digital transformation journey in April last year with the implementation of the Civica iCasework Case Management System. Implementing CaseLines, which integrates seamlessly with Civica, means that the court will be able to fully digitise the production, sharing, review and presentation of e-bundles of court documents and evidence. Managing inquests and ensuring there is no delay to justice has been extremely difficult during the pandemic. All relevant parties, including the presiding judge, relevant legal representatives and jury members, were able to engage and follow proceedings using individual iPads and the large screens placed in court.
Another benefit is the ease with which the solution allows sensitive information to be identified and redacted from the master bundle. As a result, significant time can be saved that is usually spent printing, photocopying and manually sorting and redacting bundles. Kent & Medway Coroners Court estimates that during the recent inquest it saved 46 hours of staff time.
Angie Sanders, service development officer at Kent & Medway Coroners Court said: “It would not have been possible to complete this inquest in such a short timeframe had we not adopted CaseLines. The capability of the platform proved invaluable, not only in terms of preparing for the case, but also in making it straightforward for all parties to follow proceedings. There was no need to use paper at any stage of the hearing – crucial given the strict coronavirus regulations in place.”
Ensuring all attending parties were kept safe and socially distanced was essential to keep the court running during the inquest. Without the use of CaseLines, the court would have had to equip each juror with up to seven lever arch files of case notes and evidence. Even if there had been enough space to accommodate this in the court room, it would have been very difficult for jury members to keep up in navigating to the right page. A digital system removes this complexity so that delays are avoided.
The technology also came into its own at one stage of the inquest, where travel restrictions meant a QC could not return to the UK to attend the hearing in person. Using CaseLines, the QC was able to attend the rest of the hearing via video link. Without it, the case would have been adjourned.
Andrea Kilby, business development director, CaseLines added: “We’re thrilled to be supporting Kent & Medway Coroners Court with the rollout of CaseLines, and to support continued access to justice during the pandemic. We admire the way the court was able to use our software, alongside videoconferencing tools, to conduct the jury inquest in a near normal way. While only the Coroner, jury and legal representatives were in the court room itself, the family and any attending media were able to follow all proceedings from adjacent rooms in the courthouse. In addition, witnesses were able to join via videoconference, and to view and share evidence using the platform. We firmly believe that the future of courts is to operate a mixture of virtual and in-person hearings in this way.”
CaseLines is now being used by two coroners courts in the UK, with Surrey Coroners Court also already using the solution.