The writing is on the wall for paper-reliant hearings in the NSW Land and Environment Court, with a new paperless trial revealed by the state government last week.
NSW is trialling the use of USB-stored evidence that will be projected onto walls of a courtroom in a bid to encourage paperless hearings. Parties will be able to follow proceedings with evidence projected onto a wall.
By the end of this year, five scheduled hearings in the state’s Land and Environment Court will consider evidence in this way and without using a single sheet of paper.
According to Justice Brian Preston, chief judge of the NSW Land and Environment Court, there is a strong likelihood that paperless trials will be common in lengthy civil matters before long.
“Paperless trials will only account for a minority of hearings in the Land and Environment Court this year, but they could quickly become the norm for lengthy civil matters as the legal profession adjusts to the technology and realises the benefits,” Justice Preston said.
The initiative was announced by NSW-Attorney General Mark Speakman earlier this month, who described the technology supporting the trial as simple and inexpensive.
“[Projecting evidence] onto a wall means everyone in court is simultaneously looking at the same thing – regardless of whether you are at the bench, bar table or in the public gallery,” Mr Speakman said.
“As all material is stored electronically, it’s easier and faster to move from one exhibit to another, with parties using a laser pointer to highlight the relevant sections.”
The AG added that the aim of the paperless trial was to make justice faster, cheaper and greener. It is estimated the five paperless hearings alone will save half a million pages from being printed.
“It will [deliver] significant environmental benefits,” he said.
Advocates have also expressed their support for the program to reduce the amount of paper being churned out for courtroom hearings. Sydney silk Ian Hemmings SC endorsed the trial, suggesting that more lawyers would embrace the process once they experience proceedings in this way.
“I think once practitioners see fully electronic hearings in action, everyone is going to want to get on board,” Mr Hemmings said.
According to barristers’ clerk Michele Kearns, the paperless system also removes the logistical inconvenience of transporting weighty paper court documents to and fro.
“Paperless trials are a game changer in terms of convenience as they eliminate the need to transport large volumes of documents to court. It will be particularly beneficial for lawyers coming in from out of town,” Ms Kearns said.