The Supreme Court of Victoria has embarked on a digital transformation which has enabled it to digitise its case management system and turn its courtrooms into recording studios.

The changes are significant for an institution that hasn’t changed much at all over the last hundred years or so, says Pauline Diano, program director for the Supreme Court of Victoria’s digital strategy.

Diano joined the court in July 2015 to rebuild the institution’s tech stack. The catalyst for the technology overhaul came on July 1, 2014 when the Victorian courts gained their independence from the executive arm of government. Prior to that the court’s technology was hosted and supported by the Department of Justice.

“Everything was rebuilt because it was either not fit for purpose or it was that old that there was no ‘lifting and shifting’ going on,” Diano said.

Working with a greenfield site, Diano convinced the court to migrate all its system to the cloud. The court now uses Microsoft Azure to connect all 34 courtrooms and underpin a digital case management solution that means matters can be processed more quickly.

Move to the Cloud

After a four week proof of concept, Diano’s team and their IT partners had rebuilt the court’s mission-critical application, its case management system, in Azure.

“If we did this on physical servers, those servers wouldn’t have arrived in four weeks,” Diano said.

According to Diano adopting a cloud infrastructure means they are only paying for what they use and have moved from capex to opex. It also means the technology will always be up-to-date which puts them in the position to innovate in the future.   

“I think our environment is the most applicable for the cloud environment because it changes day-to-day and we only pay for what we use,” Diano said.  

“You cannot innovate when your entire environment is old.”

As part of that innovation agenda, the court has introduced electronic filing, so matters can be filed 24 hours a day. Matters now have an electronic case file which means data doesn’t need to be entered and re-entered multiple times and can be accessed through an interface built in-house called the Judge’s portal.

Diano said there is a big move away toward paperless electronic trials.

“We are going to see an exponential increase in electronic trials. More and more parties are saying ‘we don’t want paper’. “

Virtual Courtrooms

There is also an increasing demand for hearings to be live streamed and webcast, Diano said.

$11 million was set aside in the last Victorian budget to fit out the heritage-listed courtrooms with 21st century technology to enable video and recording.

Currently every single matter is filmed and the audio is recorded and turned into a transcript in real time (that job is still done by a human).

“We are all about transparency, you have the right to walk into — unless it’s suppressed — any courtroom in our building and come and sit in and listen to a matter,” Diano said.

If the case is a matter of interest to the community, the court will be able to live stream it. For example, the former Manus Island detainees suing the government was set to be live streamed but the matter was settled before trial, Diano said. 

The courts also plan to roll out Telstra Calling via Office 365 for virtual courtrooms which will all parties to dial in or the judge to dial out.

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