Update on video conferencing between solicitors and clients in prison


Wednesday, Sep 11, 2013

As part of the Scottish Government Making Justice Work programme, the Scottish Legal Aid Board, in partnership with the Scottish Prison Service, has been developing the technology and business processes to enable legal agents to consult with their clients in prison by way of a video link using their own computer equipment i.e. desktop PC/Laptop or tablet.

A pilot project has been established and is now operational.

In July of this year operational testing commenced at Addiewell and Barlinnie prisons with a small number of legal agents who had volunteered to assist and help develop a system and processes. This period of testing is now drawing to a close and has been successful.

The testing went well with the agents and prison staff involved contributing positively to improve the operational procedures and how the system of scheduling video link consultations is set up scheduling system is set up.

Pilot project extended

We are now updating the procedures and system as a result of the feedback from the operational testing and will shortly be looking to extend the number of agents involved in the pilot project as well as the number of prisons.

For the purpose of the extended pilot there will be six prisons involved – Addiewell, Barlinnie, Cornton Vale, Low Moss, Perth and Polmont - along with around 25/30 solicitor firms. It is hoped to have the pilot operating at full capacity by late October 2013 and run it for three months before conducting an evaluation to considering whether to make it widely available.

The procedure to book a video link consultation with a client is the same as that for a physical visit. Agents will call the prison booking desk and prison staff will book the visits, if a video conference is requested then the video link is scheduled using an automated video conferencing bridging system.

When a video link is booked the agents receive an email confirming the time and date and also containing a security code. This code is unique to the particular booking and must used by the agent to connect to the prison video conferencing facilities.

As the system is automated and controlled via the bridging system there is a requirement to pre-register your details on the system before you can use it.
I will shortly be in contact with those firms who have previously expressed an interest in participating with a view to initiating the registration process.

However, if there are any firms who have not expressed an interest and wish now to do so they should contact me by email at connertonch@slab.org.uk. Please note that due to the limitation on the number of firms we can accommodate in the pilot we may not be able to involve all interested parties at this stage.

System requirements

The video link is carried out using the internet so having broadband access and good internet performance is essential. Desktop PC’s/laptops or tablets can all be used to carry out the video link providing the device is using a recognised operating system and has a camera integrated or attached.

The video link is performed using a software ‘client’ downloaded from the internet. There are various ‘clients’ available, some are free while some require the user to pay a small ‘licence’ fee. The software client to be used is dependent on the device and operating system and full support to set this up is supplied as part of the pilot process.

Further information will be published in due course as the pilot progresses.

Christine Connerton
Digital Services Marketing Manager
Scottish Legal Aid Board
Thistle House,91 Haymarket Terrace,Edinburgh,EH12 5HE
email connertonch@slab.org.uk


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