Moscow courtrooms are likely to stay online even after the lockdown. The Moscow City Court and IT company CROC have successfully piloted a facial recognition system — developed in Russia and powered by neural networks — during an online court session held as a video conference (VC). CROC’s solution helps overcome isolation restrictions and gather people in an online courtroom remotely. When the lockdown ends, electronic courtrooms will be available to a greater number of people, and the court will be able to hear cases faster than before.

In April, the Moscow City Court agreed to the public request and, jointly with CROC, tested advanced technologies for distance court hearings. The first case that came to the Moscow City Court online was an appeal against driving disqualification1.

The judges, public attorney, and defendant used the Unified Identification and Authentication System to log in to the official Moscow courts of general jurisdiction portal and connect to the court’s VC service through a simple laptop with built-in camera. User interaction via VC service is virtually the same as with a Skype or WhatsApp video conversation.
Case files are available online and all documents are always attached to the electronic case profile and available through a personal Moscow courts portal account.

While judges used to identify hearing participants by their IDs, video analytics now does this via online sessions. Trained neural networks recognize a person using photos uploaded to the database. If a person has grown a beard, had a new haircut or put on a medical mask, they will still be recognized (only 30% of face required).
Video stream is continuously analyzed throughout the hearing and there is no way to fool the network. If somebody walks out of the frame or another person sits in their place, the judge will see an indicator on the screen.

“With good lighting, a face looking towards the camera will be 98% correctly recognized. Although participants attend the hearing remotely, the judiciary leverages advanced technologies to make it as similar to real life as possible and continuously identify all speakers, like during face-to-face court sessions. Speech recognition algorithms can also be added to the system to automatically generate meeting minutes.”

Andrey Bolotov
Large Account Director, CROC

Online court hearings with remote participants have been approved by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. An order2 issued in March authorizes judges to initiate an online case hearing, if technically possible.

To continue rolling out such technology in courts, regulations have to be designed to guide both courts and hearing participants and decide upon: case categories eligible for online hearing, application process for remote participation in a hearing, ways to exchange documents and video materials, and a list of technical requirements to attend online hearings.

“We have been implementing advanced technology for quite a while and successfully piloted an online hearing in the Moscow City Court. Everything went smoothly, the procedure was fully respected and, what is particularly important given the current pandemic, we had practically zero personal contacts.”

Denis Shapovalov
Moscow City Court Judge

The Moscow City Court also added that more civil and administrative cases would soon move to online courtrooms of general jurisdiction.

Experience in foreign courts shows that remote sessions is a viable idea. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Australian courts also used VC to hold online hearings. In April alone, online hearings of complex economic and family cases involved some 2,000 people from 30 countries3.

In addition to equipping Moscow City Court for online hearings, CROC also implemented a unified portal for the Moscow courts of general jurisdiction. The project also included an internal portal for court staff, as well as subsystems for inter-agency interaction, audio and video recording of court sessions, video conferencing with pre-trial detention sites in Moscow, ‘E-case’ and ‘E-archive’ technologies, and interactive tables for judges with a built-in computer and touch-screen monitor.

1 Clause 2 of Part 1 of Article 28 of Federal Law No. 196-FZ ‘On Road Traffic Safety’ of 10.12.1999

2 Order 808 of the Judicial Council of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of March 18, 2020

3 About the Moscow City Court
Established in 1932, from the outset Moscow City Court played a prominent role in the Russian justice system and is now the highest judicial body of Moscow for civil, criminal, administrative, and other cases to be resolved by courts of general jurisdiction. As a court of first instance, Moscow City Court considers any cases referred by federal laws to the competence of courts of Russian constituent entities and is an appeal and cassation instance for district courts and a supervisory instance for justices of the peace in Moscow.