Tuesday, 12 March 2013 12:28

Skype used to give evidence in court


An Indonesian court has for the first time in that country allowed testimony to be given via Skype for a victim who could not make it to court. The plaintiff was sworn in normally in the presence of a suitable witness and testimony given from a computer in a School room on Java Island.

The Indian court system is trialling Skype as well – teleconference and telepresence costs are too high and courts can use existing PC/Mac/tablet equipment. They are considering it for both evidence and cross examination.

New Zealand is conducting a six month trial of Skype in Family Court hearings ‘Skype is efficient and reliable enough for use in court’ said Minister for Courts Chester Borrows. He added that the idea had backing from legal professionals as well. The trial is more about whether the body language of the user can be adequately gauged by the judge and perhaps eventually cases requiring juries.

A bedridden man was allowed to use Skype to testify to an Illinois court where he as the plaintiff, his lawyer, the defendant, their lawyer and judge all joined a Skype conference from different locations i.e. not in the court room. Illinois law now allows Skype to Skype use in Federal civil cases. There are issues however with the USA “state” boarder laws to be solved.

I could go on with more examples to prove that Australia is well behind in not allowing live Skype video in the court system although a submission has been presented to a Senate hearing in August 2012 on related procedural matters. ‘It would give judges and Federal magistrates more control of their time if they allocate times for hearing by Skype…’

This is an interesting and recent development for Skype that seems to have gained enormous credibility since its acquisition by Microsoft. Skype is a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) with an increasing list of features like conference and video calls, instant messaging and collaboration and integration into Microsoft Office 2013/365 and Outlook. For a small fee it also can also act as a gateway to the local public telephone switched network.

It has always had a reputation (perhaps lately undeserved) amongst network system administrators that it is dangerous on corporate networks but RSA standard public key encryption to protect the users identity and to authenticate callers as well as 256bit call encryption seems to be working.

Apps are extending Skype functionality as well. I recently found a small business using Zaplee Phone System app that had set up a 20 user virtual PABX for $10 per user per month – the cost of the app, plus inexpensive SIP handsets and using Skype’s PSTN gateway for local and international calls. (Aussies may prefer to use a local supplier like MyNetFone for local porting of existing PSTN numbers). Another app SkyRemote allows for multi-sharing of desktops and IDroo for a shared whiteboard. Clownfish app for Skype provides machine translations for voice and messages.

I also read with interest that Skype is being used as a communications framework with robots, at least by three academics in New Zealand .

‘Some of its advantages include connectivity through firewalls and NAT boxes, powerful communications primitives for multiplexing application data streams alongside audio, video and chat data, and strong security. We have integrated Skype into a ROS/Linux framework which gives the remote user all the advantages of local robot autonomy such as map-based navigation and obstacle avoidance. This allows the remote user to not only interact with people near the robot but also to view maps, robot sensory data, robot pose and to issue high-level motion commands to the robot’s navigation stack’


Even iTWire uses Skype to keep in touch with its Journalists and to ensure we all work on different articles and angles.



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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!



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