News In Focus
SLAB extends videolink consultation pilot
The Scottish Legal Aid Board is extending a pilot project that enables solicitors to consult with their clients in prison by videolink from their own computer.
Part of the Scottish Government's Making Justice Work programme, the project involves SLAB, in partnership with the Scottish Prison Service, developing the technology and business processes to support the facility.
Operational testing began in July this year at Addiewell and Barlinnie prisons with a small number of legal agents who had volunteered to assist and help develop a system and processes. SLAB regards this testing as having been successful, and is now updating the procedures and system as a result of feedback received.
It will shortly be looking to extend the number of agents involved in the pilot project, as well as the number of prisons.
The extended pilot will involve six prisons – Addiewell, Barlinnie, Cornton Vale, Low Moss, Perth and Polmont – along with around 25-30 solicitor firms. Planned to be operating at full capacity by late October 2013, it will run for three months before a further evaluation is conducted 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 videoconference is requested, the video link is scheduled using an automated videoconferencing 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 videoconferencing facilities.
As the system is automated and controlled via the bridging system, solicitors require to pre-register their details on the system before they can use it. Having broadband access and good internet performance is essential. Desktop PCs, laptops or tablets can all be used, providing the device is using a recognised operating system and has a camera integrated or attached.
Any firms who have not yet expressed an interest and wish now to do so should contact Diane Ireland at IrelandDi@slab.org.uk. At this stage there remains a limitation on the number of firms that can be accommodated in the pilot.