BT's Wi-Fi service in the dock

Britain's legal system is putting high-speed wireless networking through its paces

Wireless hot spots have been set up at seven UK law courts as part of a trial that could lead to a national rollout, as the British government continues to show interest in the potential of Wi-Fi.

Courts minister Christopher Leslie said on Thursday that London's Royal Court of Justice -- which is made up of the High Court and the Court of Appeal -- and courts in Southwark, Birmingham, Swansea, Winchester, Leeds and Liverpool had all been Wi-Fi enabled through a partnership with BT Openzone.

This announcement comes just a day after e-commerce minister Stephen Timms talked up a similar trial across the UK library network.

The trial court deployment will run until 2006. It is expected to make it easier for lawyers and court workers to access information via the Internet, and will also be open to anyone with a wireless-enabled laptop.

"The hot spots should enable lawyers to access information held at their offices or receive emails and have information sent to them while they are attending court," said Lord Justice Thomas, the senior presiding judge of England and Wales.

"When new points of law arise during the course of the hearing, they should be able to carry out the necessary research without leaving the building."

Openzone's standard pricing, such as £6 for 60 minutes' access, will apply.