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Sth Australian Legal System Moves to Cyber Space

The South Australian legal system is moving in to cyber-space with a pilot introduction of video conferencing which will allow "virtual visits" to inmates, and the provision of legal advice and court business to people in remote areas. John Howard reports.

Lawyers had been complaining they often spent 40 hours each month on the road going back and forth to meet people in remote areas.

Solicitor, Peter Duffy said, "If it were not for this technology it may be that people do not get the assistance those in major towns and cities think is normal."

Solution? - Bushlink, which now means evidence can be taken from witnesses living in remote areas and they will no longer have to travel long distances for a brief court appearance.

Launching the project yesterday state Attorney-General, Trevor Griffen, said he hoped the virtual visits would have the added effect of helping to reduce the incidence of Aboriginal deaths while custody.

Under the 12 month pilot project - funded by a A$108,000 Federal Government grant - six sites throughout the state will be fitted with video conferencing equipment.

A consortium formed between the Courts Administration Authority, Department of Correctional Services and Legal Services Commission would run the video link.

Using the network could cost A$28 an hour, but the consortium was striving to provide Bushlink free in as many circumstances as possible. The service could also be used for non-justice purposes.

On a limited basis video links have been used successfully in New Zealand but there is nothing permanent available here. People living in remote areas of New Zealand would likely welcome such a service which would put them on an equal footing with what is considered normal assistance in New Zealand cities.

ends

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