Technology and the Scottish Land Court
I recently spent three days in Shetland at a crofting law hearing before the Scottish Land Court to determine the boundaries of a croft. This was the first time I have seen a court use modern technology (other than video conference links) to aid the presentation of evidence and speed up the court process.
Productions (or at least some key maps of the 101 documents ultimately lodged with the court) had been scanned and were held on a small laptop. This was connected to a projector with a large screen forming the back drop to the Court which had been set up in the Town Hall in Lerwick. The Land Court is a peripatetic court and when it is not sitting in Edinburgh goes on circuit around Scotland to deal with its business. The surroundings of the Town Hall in Lerwick being much grander than many of the places that the Court has sat in.
As evidence was led key productions were projected onto the large screen for all parties involved and the Court to see. With the aid of a laser pointer the solicitors, witnesses and members of court could point out relative features on the maps. This made it much easier to understand the evidence quickly and clearly than just relying on verbal descriptions in relation to paper copies sitting before all concerned. I was impressed by the foresight of David Houston, the member of the Land Court who has introduced the use of this technology to the Court. Very simple to implement but very effective in use.
With the advent of the new Crofting Register and the possibility of an increase in boundary dispute cases (as highlighted in No Ordinary Court: 100 years of the Scottish Land Court) the Land Court may find itself using this technology on a more regular basis.
Moncrieff v Jamieson may have ended up a little shorter than 39 callings of the case at Lerwick Sheriff Court, including 10 days of evidence and 4 days of closing submissions, had that Court utilised such technology.
It made me think about how this technology could be extended to further benefit the workings of the Land Court (or indeed any other court). Perhaps all productions could be scanned in by the Court as a matter of course and stored on a secure web server enabling parties to the action to access these without the need to copy productions between one another. An online inventory of productions that was continually updated would give parties clarity as to the numbering of productions (often a matter of confusion with agents giving their own referencing, the court adding a unique reference and there also being a running production number).
Perhaps this could result in solicitors and the members of the Court sitting with iPads or, in my case at least, a Surface before them and accessing the documents when in court without the need to leaf through large ring file binders. This could also avoid the surcharge made by Flybe/Loganair on oversize hand luggage when flying to remote parts of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
I will keep you updated at The Time Blawg should the Scottish Land Court take up my suggestions! In the meantime if you have any experiences of any courts anywhere using technology in any way then do let me know.