South Africa will be introducing digital technology to its judicial system after the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ) contracted CaseLines, a global provider of digital evidence management, to implement paperless digital courtrooms across the country.
The software, which will initially be used in all civil litigation cases, enables the adoption of a number of digital features for judicial use such as multi-media evidence, video conferencing for virtual hearings and other collaboration tools for improved preparation before trials.
Also, the initiative will transform the current manual processes and systems by eliminating the need for physical filing and use of paper in court with the introduction of an entirely digital platform. With this, South African courts will become more efficient, in accordance with the OCJ’s vision for a single, transformed and independent judicial system with integrity and protection for all.
According to Judge Edwin Molahlehi in the High Court of Gauteng, one of the OCJ’s objectives is to “eliminate financial and practical barriers to justice … This will make a huge difference to both judges and litigants and will bring us closer to achieving access to justice for all citizens.”
Particularly, the development of a digital justice system is of immense benefits to legal practitioners who often have to travel long distances to obtain materials and data relevant to cases. As reported by itnewsafrica, judges working as far as 1000 kilometers away in Pretoria can be called to Cape Town at unfriendly hours just to review legal documents for urgent cases. The problem is compounded by the challenges of transport infrastructure in the country, making the judicial process costly and time-consuming.
Moreover, in many countries, the “use of paper bundles in the courtroom can lead to problems when evidence is mislaid and justice is compromised,” Chief Technology Officer and Founder of CaseLines, Paul Sachs said. Thus, a digital solution to these challenges is paramount, with a view to increase efficiency and security surrounding legal proceedings and allow practitioners to function in a secure online environment.
Sachs explained that the introduction of a digital evidence system removes the possibility of misplacing evidence or compromising justice from the judicial system, and his organization is “humbled” to be a part of the South African project. In addition, CaseLines will be providing local implementation services, training, and support, over the duration of the contract through its South African reseller, Tirisan Tech Solutions.
With this development in South Africa, the country joins the list of few African countries with plans to or have already digitized their judicial system including Rwanda, Morocco, Ghana, among others.
“Now in use in South Africa and across countries in East Africa, CaseLines is helping nations meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 16, supporting improvements in the Rule of Law by revolutionizing the speed and quality in the delivery of justice across Africa,” Sachs added.
CaseLines is a cloud-based legal evidence management platform that provides a secure and easy-to-use service to collaboratively produce, present and review high-quality professional trial bundles. It offers paperless hearings for lawyers and courts around the world, with some its clients including the United Kingdom and some member countries of the Common Market for Eastern and South Africa (COMESA).