E-Justice: An Australian Perspective

E-Justice: An Australian Perspective

Anne Wallace (University of Canberra, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-998-4.ch014
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A 1999 Australian report on the prospective impact of information and communications technology on the justice system presented a vision of how technology might result in a new paradigm of ‘e-justice.’ Since that report was written, Australian courts have had nearly two decades of experience of the introduction of new technologies. This chapter discusses the experience of e-justice in Australia to date and argues that it still has some way to go to achieve the goals set out in the 1999 report. It suggests that, to date, the implementation of information and communication technology (ICT) in courts has largely concentrated on enhancing traditional methods of delivering justice. The innovative potential of technology is something that courts are still coming to terms with. In particular, courts have been slow to embrace the possibilities for the delivery of new kinds of services that will transform the nature of their relationship with users.
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In 1999, a seminal Australian report by the Victorian Parliamentary Law Reform Committee on the prospective impact of information and communications technology on the justice system predicted that:

Developments in technology offer the opportunity to transform the justice system into an accessible, inexpensive, transparent and efficient system, which is responsive to the needs of the community. The effective use of IT in the justice system can entirely change the relationship between courts, governments and the public. …technology can ensure that everyday legal issues are processed without the need for expensive legal advice or long court processes. …IT offers lawyers the opportunity to be world leaders in their chosen field and offers judges access to the best resources possible to make appropriate decisions. (Parliament of Victoria, 1999, p. 23)

The report was visionary. It pointed to the potential of new technologies to improve and enhance the operation of the justice system. More significantly, it presented a vision of how technology might result in a new paradigm of ‘e-justice.’

Since that report was written, Australian courts have had nearly two decades of experience of modern information and communications technologies (ICT). ICT is being deployed to enable parties to file cases electronically, to assist courts in managing cases and workflow, to time-table hearings and allocate hearing rooms and judges, to provide judicial support and enhanced research capacity, to enable courts to receive evidence from remote locations, to organise and display evidence more efficiently in the courtroom, to provide faster and more efficient communication between the court and the parties, to provide a record of court proceedings, to publish the decisions of the courts, to provide better information to court users, to exchange data between justice agencies, and for many internal management and organisational purposes.

This chapter argues that the use of ICT in the court system has not yet resulted in the transformation envisaged in that 1999 report. While application of ICT in the court process is routinely justified by reference to the goals it put forward, and while technology may have made some contributions to achieving those goals, in general, it has not yet fulfilled the report’s vision of ensuring that everyday legal issues are processed without the need for expensive legal advice or long court processes.

It suggests that the reason that the transformative potential of new technologies has yet to be fully realised in the Australian court system has to do with an emphasis that has been placed on using ICT to support existing court practices and procedures. It argues that change, to the extent the committee envisaged, will only come about as courts embrace the possibilities that technology offers to provide new ways to deliver justice.

The chapter will also discuss some of the issues that are arising in the transformation process, identify areas in need of research, and refer to some current Australian research that is being conducted in relation to one area of particular importance.


The Australian Experience

‘Technology’ has been defined as referring to applications of scientific knowledge (Australian Law Reform Commission, 1998, [1.8]). For the purposes of this chapter, ICT is taken to encompass a range of computer and telecommunications technologies, including data processing (electronic retrieval, storage and management of data, document imaging), data management, communications services (telecommunications generally, wireless, video-conferencing, electronic mail, the Internet, virtual private networks, voice over Internet, collaborative Web technology), groupware and workflow systems, voice recognition, and artificial intelligence or expert systems.

In discussing the application of ICT in the Australian justice system, it is important to bear in mind that Australia has a federal system of government, so it has 10 separate but inter-related legal systems: the Commonwealth, six states, and three self-governing territories. The following discussion will provide an overview of the development and use of ICT in Australia as a whole, rather than a detailed analysis of each jurisdiction.

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Table of Contents
Agustí Cerrillo i Martínez, Pere Fabra i Abat
Chapter 1
Marco Fabri
The European Union (EU) is an extraordinary laboratory of innovation and change, particularly in the justice sector. The diversity of environments... Sample PDF
The Italian Style of E-Justice in a Comparative Perspective
Chapter 2
Davide Carnevali
In spite of the technological, economic, and normative efforts, all democratic countries are developing electronic filing (e-filing) in the justice... Sample PDF
E-Justice and Policies for Risk Management
Chapter 3
Marta Poblet, Joan-Josep Vallbé, Núria Casellas, Pompeu Casanovas
Judicial culture generally refers to the set of values, cognitive skills, and practical knowledge of members of the judiciary. In this chapter, we... Sample PDF
Judges as IT Users: The Iuriservice Example
Chapter 4
James E. McMillan
Automated court case management systems present opportunities to develop processes and procedures that can battle corruption. This chapter provides... Sample PDF
The Potential of Computerized Court Case Management to Battle Judicial Corruption
Chapter 5
Michael Adler, Paul Henman
This chapter considers the implications of computerisation for procedural justice in social security. It outlines an approach to the analysis of... Sample PDF
Justice Beyond the Courts: The Implications of Computerisation for Procedural Justice in Social Security
Chapter 6
Melissa H. Conley Tyler
Every community—whether physical or virtual will inevitably experience conflict. New ways of interacting through information and communication... Sample PDF
Online Dispute Resolution
Chapter 7
E-Justice in Spain  (pages 98-116)
Agustí Cerrillo I Martínez
Administration of justice is adding information and communication technologies in its internal operations and its relations both with judicial... Sample PDF
E-Justice in Spain
Chapter 8
Francesco Contini, Antonio Cordella
The Italian judiciary is characterised by a weak system of governance, consequence of institutional and cultural factors. In this framework, the... Sample PDF
Italian Justice System and ICT: Matches and Mismatches Between Technology and Organisation1
Chapter 9
Roberto Fragale Filho, Alexandre Veronese
It has become commonplace to talk about a silent revolution in the Brazilian Judiciary for which the widespread use of ICT has been of great impact.... Sample PDF
Electronic Justice in Brazil
Chapter 10
J. William Holland
This chapter outlines the history of digital government in criminal justice, starting with the Johnson Administration’s findings concerning... Sample PDF
Digital Government and Criminal Justice
Chapter 11
Sandra Potter, Phil Farrelly, Derek Begg
This chapter tracks the response of Australian courts to rapid advances in ICT. It shows how, despite early resistance and a reactive approach to... Sample PDF
The E-Court Roadmap: Innovation and Integration An Australian Case Study
Chapter 12
Yves Poullet
This chapter examines the ambitious Phenix project, a global project for the whole computerization of all Courts and Tribunals in Belgium, with the... Sample PDF
The Belgian Case: Phenix or How to Design E Justice Through Privacy Requirements and in Full Respect of the Separation of Powers
Chapter 13
Alexei Trochev
When the Internet reached Russia in the mid- 1990s, Russian judicial chiefs actively embraced the idea of having a solid presence of national... Sample PDF
Courts on the Web in Russia
Chapter 14
Anne Wallace
A 1999 Australian report on the prospective impact of information and communications technology on the justice system presented a vision of how... Sample PDF
E-Justice: An Australian Perspective
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