A Defendant’s Perspective: The Impact of Video Conferencing on Court Proceedings
The government is in the process of pouring £1 billion into modernising the judicial sector; from the introduction of online forms to the use of video links in court.
Hardly any investigation has been done into what defendants think about the introduction of modern technology to their law proceeding, however a paper by Transform Justice suggests that defendants are reluctant to appear on video links. When given the choice, the majority of defendants refused to appear on video from the police station.
“Sometimes you feel that you are not part of it and it would be better to go [to court]. Other times it is a load of hassle and you think ‘what’s the point of going to court to wait around all day?’ It just depends on how things are going with your case but I think we should have some choice” – Defendant
There is also some concern about the impact video links will have on vulnerable individuals, for example, defendants with mental health issues, learning issues or disabilities, or even people for whom English is not their first language. These people could face a disadvantage if their sentences are decided via video. They might have less support than if they physically came to court and it can also be harder for them to be advised via video if they have issues following instructions.
This restriction on support also extensions to the defendants family, friends and support works who Dr Marie Tidball argues play an ‘important part in helping practitioners understand the needs of defendants with autism’. Usually a defendant cannot see the public gallery when appearing through a video link – their view is restricted to the judge.
A survey of around 300 court users, including magistrates, lawyers and defendants, found that 70% of respondents, said it was difficult to recognise whether someone who was on video had a disability, while 74% believed that those who had no legal representation were disadvantaged by appearing on video.
While New South Wales prisoners are concerned appearing in court remotely via a video link reduces them to “just a face on a screen” and hampers their interaction with their legal representatives, a new study has found. A personal entry from a defendant’s highlights that the disconnect between the real and virtual world can often soften the implications of criminal behaviour; “Hearing the prosecution listing his understanding of my thoughts and actions…had an effect no video link would ever have had. From even my brief experience of video links it was clear that I could have convinced myself that this was all merely another virtual experience. It was the real court experience that made me face up to my crime.”
However, courts minister Yvette Cooper claims that the new video links will mean more court cases go ahead on time, improving the efficiency of the Criminal Justice System and preventing time and resources being wasted in the Prison Service and the courts as well.
Overall, it suggests that the use of video links must take in consideration of aspects of the case and the defendant, in order to ensure that video is not disproportionality disadvantaging them throughout their legal proceedings. If done right, video links can save defendants the stress of an all day ordeal while protecting their right to a fair trial.
Eyenetwork is one company who has over 20 years experience helping the CPS, HMCTS, police and over 6000 solicitors setup and connect video links to courts for witness testimonies and hearing. We ensure that they receive the best quality video, audio and security.
It is important during these unprecedented times that we try – where possible – to carry on as usual and test new ways to make sure everyone gets a fair trail, whether it’s digitally or in person at court. Our legal cloud solution enables legal teams to connect to clients & colleagues anywhere on any device on video & audio securely.
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