How has COVID-19 Modernised English Courts?
Despite all the hardships we’ve faced this year, the way England’s Criminal Justice System has evolved has defeated the odds.
A NEED FOR MODERNISATION
The English are known to be sticklers for tradition, and nowhere was that truer than looking at our Crown Courts – this is what makes the recent transformation of English courts so astounding. Video technology has been available to the courts since 1999, but it’s taken until now for it to become an accepted standard for court proceedings.
In March of 2020, the Lord Chief Justice announced that he would not let proceedings “grind to a halt,” and that “there [was] an urgent need to increase the use of telephone and video technology immediately to [facilitate] remote hearings where possible.”
COURTS REMAIN OPEN
Throughout the pandemic English courts were able to remain open, even as many other countries closed their courts, thanks to the rapid adaptation to using video technology. They were able to implement not only the technology itself, but also the necessary regulations and guidance, faster than many people could have anticipated.
Although this was initially due to the current pandemic, the adaptation of video technology in courtrooms could have a long term effect.
ACCESSIBILITY AND MODERNISATION
Remote hearings allow people to join the courtroom from their own homes, which of course is the best way to minimise transmission; However, the other benefit of this transformation is that English courtrooms have now become far more accessible than they were previously. Video Link had already been identified as potentially revolutionary technology when it comes to certain issues of accessibility, but had not yet been implemented on a wider scale.
As the Lord Chief Justice stated in 2018 when referring to video links, “it will be easier for them to fit their court appearances around their lives…minimising the disruption to those caught up in the justice system but whose evidence is needed in those cases.”
Video Link makes court appearances significantly more accessible for parents who need childcare, those who struggle to get time off work, and those who need accommodation for disability; as the technology becomes more standard these benefits will only increase.
A THANK YOU
The fact that English courtrooms, as well as the people that work in this sector everyday, have adapted so quickly to the regular use of Video Link technology is a credit to everyone involved.
Not only has it prevented the backlog of cases from increasing exponentially, but it may also have long term positive effects for those going through court systems in the future, modernising the sector at a rate faster than anyone could have predicted.
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