Delivering cost-effective justice services in a State the size of Western Australia is extremely challenging.
Traditionally, parties involved in a court case (including witnesses, parties, lawyers and judicial officers like judges, magistrates and JPs) had to be physically present in the one location for the matter to proceed. This can be very expensive in terms of time, travel and accommodation costs.
The District Court is one of the courts in the justice system in Western Australia that uses video conferencing systems to help resolve some of these problems. This technology provides interactive video and audio communications between parties in different locations.
The District Court routinely uses video link facilities for hearings involving circuit locations. It also uses video links for routine criminal hearings to avoid the cost and inconvenience of moving persons in custody from a detention facility to court and back, for what is sometimes a very short hearing.
The Court has also established a remote witness room for video links in the District Court Building. This can be used for circuit trials to obviate the need for a witness to travel to the circuit locations. The room number is 123 and is located on the first floor, adjacent to Court 1.1. The District Court Building video link room can be booked using the usual Video Link Booking Request form
In appropriate situations, a party to proceedings can seek an order from the Court pursuant to Evidence Act 1906 (WA) s121 that a witness give evidence at a trial by video link.
The Court’s policy on witnesses giving evidence by video link is set out in Practice Direction GEN 1 of 2011 - Use of Video Link Facilities. The Practice Direction imposes an obligation on a party who has obtained an order for the use of video link facilities to use reasonable endeavours to ensure that the video link facility is one set out in the Court’s List of Preferred Video Link Facilities.
The Practice Direction also sets out some specific obligations to ensure that the dignity and solemnity of the court is maintained throughout the reception of the evidence by video link.
Once an order has been obtained for a witness to give evidence by video link, the party who has obtained the order will need to make the necessary administrative arrangements with the Court. To do so, the party will need to provide a Video Link Booking Request to the Court, not less than 14 days before the date of the hearing in which the evidence is to be taken. There are two forms:Video Link Booking Request Form - District Court Building Hearings
Video Link Booking Request Form - Circuit Hearings
The District Court does not charge parties for the use of video link facilities in criminal matters Where the venue at which the witness, party or practitioner will appear is not on the Court’s List of Preferred Video Link Facilities (essentially court houses and police multi function facilities), then any charges levied by that venue will remain the responsibility of the party making the application.
For all other matters where an order has been obtained for the use of video link facilities, the use of the facilities are funded by a user-pays system. The fees for a video link are set out in the Evidence (Video and Audio Links Fees and Expenses) Regulations 1999 (WA), as follows (current as at 8 August 2011):
- Booking fee: $110.50 (non-refundable) for interstate and overseas bookings $74.50 (non-refundable) for intrastate bookings
- Administration fee: $58.50 per hour or part thereof
- All telecommunication (ISDN) charges incurred by the Court
For more information, contact the Court's Technology Officer on (08) 9425 2278 or Facsimile: (08) 9425 2268