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High Court Hears Expert Witness Evidence Remotely For The First Time

The High Court in Glasgow has heard evidence from an expert witness who appeared virtually for the first time, in a move that has divided opinion in the legal community. 

The evidence was led by the defence in a trial involving multiple charges of rape and assault to danger of life. Dr Michael O’Keefe, a forensic medical expert, appeared via video-link from Ireland. 

The case had previously been adjourned due to the coronavirus pandemic and counsel for the defence did not wish for any further delays. An application was made to the court for Mr O’Keefe’s evidence to be heard remotely.

In usual circumstances, a join minute of agreement on evidence could have been lodged – however, this was rejected by the defence as it would lack “impact or force”. Instead, with the help of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service’s Electronic Service Unit, it was ruled that Mr O’Keefe could appear from Ireland remotely. 

In a positive reception for remote evidence, Mr O’Keefe said: “I have given evidence on many occasions recently to jurors who have been situated remotely from the courtroom and have seen them live on screens. I did not find this in any way distracting or disconcerting and quickly accepted it as the current ‘normal’.”

He went on to say: “I am delighted to have been involved in this recent trial via remote link, particularly since I have citations to appear in two other High Court cases this month when I shall remain abroad and now no longer need to be concerned regarding complex travel arrangements to give evidence in person.”


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