This is a topic that I warn you about in my book How Do I Defend Myself At Court? The court professionals, judge and barristers and solicitors, all have access to an online digital storage system that holds all the documents for your case. Its called the Digital Case System, or ‘DCS’ for short. The only snag is: if you’re defending yourself, you can’t access any of it.
The problem is highlighted in a report in today’s Times which you can read here. The report states:
Although the number of people without access to any online services might be small, the district judges said that self-represented defendants form a “far larger group of often tech-savvy but nonetheless digitally excluded people” due to the cuts in access to legal aid.
The Magistrates Association raised the same issues and voiced concern over the “potential negative impact video technology could have on ensuring fair and effective participation” by many, particularly those who are young or vulnerable.
If you are representing yourself in the criminal courts, you will likely feel very excluded from what is going on in your own case. The Judge, or Magistrates, and all the barristers and solicitors, will have ready access to all the documents – but you won’t. So what can you do?
At present, the only way that the court system is equipped to help you is by making sure that you are provided with paper copies of all the documents, and where some material is recorded (such as CCTV or a phone call) by making sure that you are given a copy on disk. Mostly it will be the Prosecution who have to help you this way, because it will be the Prosecution who are bringing you to court and producing evidence to try and prove your guilt. They must give you copy of all the evidence that they are producing against you.
The best advice to you is to remind all the legal professionals involved in your case at every court hearing that you go to that you need to be sent everything in the post – do not assume that everyone will remember this for themselves. And check at every court hearing that the Prosecution have recorded your address correctly – do not assume that because you told them your address at the last court hearing, that they will still have it correctly recorded.