That was the Month that Was: May 2020

1 May: Law Society Gazette reports the Ministry of Justice is installing new video equipment in 60 Magistrates Courts and 48 Crown Courts from specialist supplier Kinly.

1 May: Civil Justice Council announces ‘rapid consultation on the impact of Covid-19 measures on civil justice system’ with a publication date now of 5 June.

1 May: Guardian reports Labour Party argument that ‘Online streaming of public court cases should become the norm during and after lockdown to create a more transparent and fair justice system’.

5 May: Penelope Gibbs of Transform Justice continues her scrutiny of the use of video in court proceedings, publicising research from the Universities of Surrey and Sussex. ‘This is the fourth research report (three commissioned by public sector bodies) to suggest that the interests and rights of defendants are prejudiced by video justice. After this emergency period, we need to pause and appraise such evidence. Is it really worth risking defendants’ rights and justice outcomes to make justice cheaper and more convenient?’

5 May Legal Futures reports that the government had announced £5.4m into the Community Justice Fund for law centres and other legal advice charities for work during the Covid-19 crisis. ‘The Community Justice Fund is a joint initiative between Advice UK, Law Centres Network and Citizens Advice and a group of independent funders (the AB Charitable Trust, Access to Justice Foundation, Indigo Trust, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, The Legal Education Foundation [funder of this website] and Therium Access). It is hosted by The Access to Justice Foundation.

5 May: Matthew Ryder QC goes on London local radio to publicise legal advice on smartphone contract tracing apps from elite Matrix Chambers.

6 May: LA County Superior Court announces launch of free online tool to help parents negotiate child disputes. ‘Beginning May 18, parents and attorneys may initiate a negotiation invitation through the Online Dispute Resolution program in which the other party will receive an emailed invitation to participate. If both parents agree on a plan, the ODR tool will generate a parenting plan agreement that the parents may file with the court through U.S. mail, fax or drop box outside the courthouse. The plan would become a court order if accepted.’

7 May: CNN reports that ‘A man in Nigeria was sentenced to death via the popular video conferencing app Zoom this week, sparking condemnation from rights groups who described the ruling as inhumane. At a virtual court hearing on Monday, Olalekan Hameed was found guilty of murdering his mother’s employer in 2018 and was sentenced to death by hanging.’

13 May: Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales publishes guide to research around the globe on Covid 19 and courts.

15 May: Ontario Court of Justice publishes note on media and public access to courts during Covid 19 crisis.

16 May: BBC reports ‘surge in demand for coronavirus help’ from Citizens Advice in England and Wales. This includes its tracking of website use which ‘witnessed online traffic decrease during key press conferences and broadcasts by the prime minister and chancellor before page views “surge” again afterwards.’

17 May: National Judicial College reports that ‘Our May Question of the Month asked judges which online platform they’ve been using most often to conduct court operations remotely during the coronavirus crisis. Among the 702 judges who responded, the clear winners were Zoom with 48 percent and WebEx with 25 percent.’

17 May: neat analysis by We and AI of five ways AI is being used to combat Covid 19: helping diagnosis; tracking apps; CCTV surveillance; drug and vaccine development; spreading public information using chatbots.

20 May: Guardian reports that ‘A man convicted of drug-trafficking offences has been sentenced to death in Singapore via a Zoom video-call, the city-state’s first case where capital punishment has been delivered remotely.’

20 May: BBC reports that ‘Man makes money buying his own pizza on DoorDash app’. ‘The owner of a pizza restaurant in the US has discovered the DoorDash delivery app has been selling his food cheaper than he does – while still paying him full price for orders. A pizza for which he charged $24 (£20) was being advertised for $16 on DoorDash – and when he secretly ordered it himself, the app paid his restaurant the full $24 while charging him $16. He had not asked to be put on the app.’

21 May: Centre for Justice Innovation seeks data on courts’ response to Covid 19, listing six other bodies also collating information: Justice systems around the world are being affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and they are all developing their responses to it: Fair Trials are detailing how fair trial rights are being affected; Remote Courts Worldwide is a website designed to help the global community of justice workers – judges, lawyers, court officials, litigants, court technologists – to share their experiences of ‘remote’ alternatives to traditional court hearings; World Prison Brief are compiling and updating a list of news articles from around the world on COVID-19 and prisons; Confederation of European Probation is publishing information, measures and protocols on how probation services all over Europe are dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak; Prison Policy Initiative is tracking how states and local governments in America are taking meaningful steps to protect people behind bars (and the general public) from Covid-19; The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory have drawn together information on the use of remote hearings in court systems around the world.

21 May: Lloyds Bank publishes its consumer digital index for 2020: ‘Over the last five years, the Lloyds Bank UK Consumer Digital Index has used the behavioural data of 1 million people and interviewed almost 7,000 consumers, to create the UK’s largest measure of digital capability. This year finds that an estimated 7% of the UK population are still offline and 9 million struggle to get online by themselves.’ The total UK population is 68m so digital exclusion appears to be very real.

22 May: ‘Australian Researchers Record World’s Fastest Internet Speed’ reports Courthouse News Service: ‘44.2 terabits per second from a single light source.’

24 May: Guardian publishes thoughtful article entitled ‘Has coronavirus changed the UK justice system for ever?’.

26 May: Report on Judicial Review during Covid-19 pandemic discussed in blog by authors led by Joe Tomlinson of York University and Public Law Project. Their work is discussed further at https://law-tech-a2j.org/odr/remote-court-hearings-research-and-requirements/.

31 May: Analytics Insight publishes ‘5 DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION TRENDS THAT WILL EMPOWER THE UK LEGAL INDUSTRY IN 2020’. They are:

  1. Artificial Intelligence will take over Legal Documentation.
  2. Chatbots will be the new Customer Service Manager
  3. Cybersecurity will elevate client Confidentiality and Privacy
  4. Automation will take over repetitive Tasks
  5. Predictive Analytics will furnish valuable Business Intelligence

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