Virtual reality model aids Bloody Sunday Inquiry

ICL has turned one of Northern Ireland's stately buildings into the UK's most high-tech legal arena by implementing a complex...

ICL has turned one of Northern Ireland's stately buildings into the UK's most high-tech legal arena by implementing a complex Windows 2000-based system in just seven weeks

Mike Simons

The centrepiece of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, now under way in Londonderry's Guildhall, is a virtual reality model of the Bogside area of Derry as it existed in 1972.

Using old photographs and computer-generated images, ICL has recreated the scene on the day when paratroopers shot dead 13 civil rights protesters during an illegal march.

This virtual model is supported by specialist firm Legal Technology's Trialpro evidence display system, which combines a database for exhibit management with powerful annotation and presentation tools.

Documents, maps and photographs collected in a proprietary database are displayed on 21in monitors around the court. The system is configured to allow inquiry chief Lord Saville to control which members of the legal teams can see specific evidence.

A second key technology is Livenote, a real-time transcription system from legal software supplier Smith Bernal. It allows lawyers to receive a live text feed on a notebook computer from the hearing's stenographer.

"The system took just seven weeks to implement after tender documents went out on 23 December 1999," said Clare McElduff, senior project manager for ICL at the inquiry.

A complex CCTV system displays talking heads of those speaking. If two or more people speak at once the CCTV system operates a priority system. The whole proceedings are broadcast to four locations across the city.

The courtroom contains 30 desktops and 40 laptops. Windows 2000 servers host all applications, including Microsoft Office and Exchange.

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