Belgian courtrooms are now online

At court Credit: wp paarz, Flickr

You no longer have to leave your home to go to court in Belgium; JustCourt sessions are attended virtually by defendants, civil parties, witnesses and lawyers.

The online transition was already possible for civil cases but only this May, JustCourt welcomed criminal cases to the internet; all the involved parties can simply log in to a court session on Microsoft Teams.

“Although JustCourt is not intended to replace face-to-face meetings and trials, it does allow parties who find it difficult to appear in person to take part in certain proceedings, ” highlighted the Justice Ministry.

All those wishing to attend virtually must submit a request at least five days before the trial. During the sessions, recording is entirely forbidden and results in sanctions; all involved suspects must also consent to online presence and lawyers are still required to wear appropriate clothing.

The JustCourt system now functions in the courts in Mechelen, Brussels and Marche-en-Famme in the Luxembourg province. €3,1 million has been spent on the installation of 120 large screens and audio equipment to be used for virtual trials and JustCourt announced that it will soon be available across the country.

Aiming to save money and travel time, the system, however, reduces human contact and could potentially lead to more complications, conceals and misunderstandings during the trials. The alleged criminals also get away from experiencing the tension of a live court room.

The virtual sessions are not yet available for prison detainees, though virtual hearings were stated to be in development. The Justice Ministry argued that reducing prison transfers would guarantee more safety, referencing the recent incident in France in which a prisoner escaped while in transit, killing one police officer.

Furthermore, JustCourt´s goal is to ease the pressure on the justice system, which suffers from “untenable” structural issues, as judges continue warning about court closures to due unexpected backlogs.

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Written by

Anna Akopyan

Originally from Moscow, with Russian and Armenian origins, Anna has lived in Costa Blanca for over ten years. She is passionate about singing, acting and traveling.

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