Most Crown and Combined courts across England and Wales will now have wi-fi facilities in place, the Courts Minister Maria Eagle has just announced today. BT Openzone facilities have now been installed in 67 courts over the past three months to allow court users to take advantage of fast and convenient wi-fi in between court sittings.

The installation of wi-fi facilities will help barristers and solicitors in England and Wales to utilise time between cases more effectively by providing wireless access to email, legal reference material, and suitable office networks. For jurors, victims and witnesses, the availability of high-speed broadband internet will mean ready access to work, business and leisure pursuits in between court hearings.  Wi-Fi will also enable any journalists to be able to file their copy back to HQ in the event of major trials in the public interest.

Courts Minister Maria Eagle welcomes the availability of wi-fi: “Many legal professionals who use the courts need access to fast and instant online information. Similarly HMCS recognises that going to court as a victim, witness or juror can be disruptive for many people who may need to keep in touch with their business, work or family during the day. The provision of wi-fi is an important step by HMCS to improve court facilities and the quality of service provided to court users.”

Wi-Fi will be available at signposted zones in most publicly accessible areas of the court. For a typical Crown Court this will cover the advocates’ assembly room, the jury assembly suite, witness waiting area, public concourse, and cafeteria (where available). Her Majesty’s Courts Service has funded the provision of wi-fi facilities in the courts, and will receive a percentage of the revenue from BT Openzone.

The agreement to install the wi-fi network across the courts follows a successful installation and pilot of BT Openzone wireless access points across eight courts – the Royal Courts of Justice, the Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey), Southwark, Birmingham and Swansea Crown Courts, and Winchester, Leeds and Liverpool Combined Courts.

To access the wireless broadband network at the courts, a wide range of payment options are available from BT Openzone. These include vouchers and subscriptions which can be purchased electronically online, with a range of tariffs to meet the needs of occasional and frequent users.  Customers of BT Total Broadband can now use their free inclusive wi-fi minutes to access Openzone hotspots in the courts as well as other hotspots around the country.

BT’s hotspot estate in the UK and Ireland covers more than 3,000 hotspots including railway stations, airports, hotel chains, coffee shops, marinas and 12 city centres, including Newcastle, Liverpool and Westminster. To find their nearest hotspot, customers can use the BT Openzone hotspot directory – http://btopenzone.hotspot-directory.com/

Comment: while we appreciate someone has to pay for all this – and working with BT is better than having to find the funding out of tax revenues – it does mean all those people who have signed up with the rival T-Mobile hotspots wi-fi service will be paying twice for the privilege of staying in touch.