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The Paperless Court

This writer has an iPhone, but is not an enthusiast of it. Peering into BAILII on the small screen, to read Ireland’s Road Traffic Acts, say, is not to be recommended, particularly if a court hearing is in the offing.

Consequently, the proposal to introduce “the paperless office” to Norwich prosecutors is looked at with a jaundiced eye.

That same eye, being in private practice, is distantly threatened with strain; if the prosecutor has a tablet, the defence counsel must have one also.

The interesting issue is, however, not the tablet; it is the prosecutor and the prosecutor’s mind-set. Does it matter a fig (assuming it to be true) that some money will be saved by the use of tablets? Many administrators would be able to find other ways of saving money in the conduct of criminal trials. Why should they not be given their wish?

A criminal trial is, supposedly, not about the convenience of the prosecution; it is, reputedly, a search for justice.

When it is not that, it is a fraud. It is a fraud because its procedural approach is deceitful. The elaborate procedure of a criminal trial is intended to vindicate the State as it punishes a human being. If the State has some other agenda it is the State that should be in the dock, not the accused.

What kind of impermissible agenda could a State have?

Well, levying terror on its own military forces is one.

Needless to say, there will be no evidence of impermissible agendas in prosecutors’ tablets. To find that kind of stuff, defence counsel must walk, as it were, behind the false wall of the prosecutor’s case and find the real evidence. That will become more difficult without ready access, without quibble, to all the prosecution material, particularly the stuff the prosecutor deems not relevant or necessary to his/her case.

If that is what the defence requires and needs, there will develop a new stage in a paperless prosecution; the inspection in situ of prosecution paper. We know how important it is to be skeptical of conventional wisdom; now we must be skeptical of prosecutorial WYSIWUG.*


* “What You See Is What You Get”, Apple’s reprobation of Microsoft’s interface (before Windows).