The State Courts of Singapore and A*STAR’s (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R) are developing a Speech Transcription System (STS) for use in the Courts, so that oral evidence and delivery presented in court proceedings can be instantly transcribed in real time.
The STS recognises human voice and transcribes the speech into text in real time. This real-time transcription service will be available for the parties involved in court proceedings, without the use of court reporters or transcribers.
The project will be carried out in two phases. The first phase is the Proof of Concept which is expected to be completed by early 2019. The second phase will be the full implementation of a speech transcription system in all the courtrooms in the State Courts Towers which will be in operation in 2020.
The State Courts handle about 99 per cent of the criminal cases in Singapore. Currently, all criminal court proceedings, except mention cases, are digitally recorded and the transcription process is done by an external service provider, which takes about seven days. In order to have immediate access to transcripts, parties have to engage private vendors that provide court reporting and real-time transcription services. With the introduction of the STS, the State Courts’ court reporting services will include real-time transcription.
The STS will provide instant access to the recorded evidence to all participants as the transcripts produced can be displayed on individual computer monitors in the courtrooms simultaneously. With this, the Judge and parties to the case, including prosecutors and defence counsel in criminal hearings, would be able to review the oral testimonies and evidence presented in Court immediately.
This is expected to allow for more effective participation by the parties, especially the party that is questioning the witness on the stand.
Real-time transcription is also useful when the witness cannot be heard clearly and when the speaker gives unclear or inconsistent evidence. When this is detected by the STS, the speakers can be prompted to speak more clearly. Clarification can also be sought immediately by using the system’s search function to locate specific parts of the evidence. In other words, the introduction of the STS will assist the parties to conduct their criminal cases in a more effective and expeditious manner.
Justice See Kee Oon, Presiding Judge of the State Courts, said, “The State Courts are constantly improving our services to provide an effective justice system. The Speech Transcription System is indeed another innovation harnessing technology to offer real-time oral evidence which will benefit all parties to court proceedings.”
“This transcription system is a great example of how technology can be used to improve productivity by automating a traditionally labour intensive process. This allows court officers to work more efficiently and effectively. The technology can also be used to improve productivity not just for court staff, but also for communicators, archivists and other such professions,” said Professor Dim-Lee Kwong, Executive Director of A*STAR’s I²R.