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The New Zealand court system took another step into the 21st century yesterday afternoon, a successful trial taking place of web-based video conferencing linking Queenstown, Balclutha, Invercargill and Wellington.
Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier presided over the "mock hearing" from Wellington, video links enabling Queenstown solicitor Dale Lloyd, of MacTodd, Balclutha solicitor Annie Scott and Invercargill solicitor Kate McHugh to make submissions without leaving their offices.
The only minor hiccup during the trial was when Ms Scott dropped off-line momentarily.
Courts Minister Chester Borrows said the mock hearing was an "important step towards a more modern court system" - and one which would ultimately save money.
"We've got Invercargill, Queenstown and Balclutha represented at the moment. If those lawyers had to travel to a common court, then they would have travel time between those locations ... and someone's going to have to pay for that.
"There's the delay sitting around and waiting for the matter to be called. The ability to be able to book an appointment and run the hearing over this sort of technology has savings for everyone involved.
"It also enables the courts to operate in areas without a physical courthouse so has the potential to greatly increase access to justice for rural communities."
After yesterday's success, a six-month proof-of-concept trial, involving Family Court hearings, was scheduled to begin next year.
Several other courts wanted to join the trial.
The trial was expected to include short cause guardianship cases, dissolutions, Child, Youth and Family cases and some judicial conferences.
Mr Borrows also expected, in time, the technology could be rolled out and used in criminal cases, provided they were uncontested.
Ms Lloyd said the technology would greatly help with urgent Family Court cases.