During a recent visit to Preston Crown Court I observed portion of the instance of R v Jason Hunter and was fascinated how both traditional and modern elements were used side by side during the proceedings.
My visit took topographic point on Wednesday 26th November 2008, in the center of the test. Judge Slinger presided, with barristers Howarth for the prosecution and Hayton stand foring the defense mechanism.
The suspect was accused of colza by a immature female informant, who testified utilizing a picture nexus to the courtroom from a constabulary station, every bit good as a figure of other informants. A DVD of the original constabulary interviews were shown for each informant, before they were examined by the barristers over the picture nexus.
The teenage miss said that around the 23rd of April 2007, she invited the suspect over to her parent ‘s place while she was entirely. Hunter was 18 old ages old at the clip, whereas she was 14. She says that after being on the phone to her friend she was raped by the suspect. During the test she stated that the suspect had admitted the colza over a ‘MSN ‘ confab conversation over the cyberspace, while her friend pretended to be another individual. However, due to the nature of these communications it was found that this can non be proved. The miss ‘s phone records were examined in the tribunal, to set up which calls were made at assorted times from her phone.
Jason Hunter denies the colza, and claims he has ne’er had any sexual contact with the miss.
Traditional Aspects of Court
Courts today still maintain many traditions that are centuries old. For illustration, the Judge and barristers wear the traditional robe and wig. Robes have their beginnings in mediaeval times, and the wig has been adopted by barristers since 1663. Both have ever been seen to expose cognition and acquisition.[ 1 ]They are maintained as many feel they provide self-respect to the proceedings, and besides as many attorneies feel the wig gives them “ an air of authorization every bit good as namelessness ” .[ 2 ]
However, recent reforms to the frock regulations announced by The Lord Chief Justice province that wigs will no longer be needed in civil or household tribunal instances. A 2003 reappraisal found the wigs to be ‘old fashioned, uncomfortable and expensive ‘ .[ 3 ]
The Advantages of some modern developments of engineering in usage in the courtroom
In the twelvemonth 2000, a ?32m engineering programme aimed at rushing up condemnable justness and doing it easier for jurymans to understand complex grounds was put into topographic point in selected Crown Courts.[ 4 ]Since so, more and more engineering has been put into tribunal suites all over the state. This includes adding computing machines with sophisticated package, big screens and shows, picture associating capablenesss and digital papers direction.
At Preston Crown Court, several big modern plasma screens are displayed conspicuously around the courtroom. As Vicky Harris points out ( ITLT 15 3 ( 8 ) ) the strategic arrangement of the screens is really of import, as unless everybody in the courtroom can see what is traveling on they become a hinderance and add nil to the effectivity of the test.[ 5 ]They have a figure of intents including picture conferencing with informants, demoing presentations and digital Reconstructions and are now in really common usage.
As engineering progresss, the capablenesss of the screens become progressively intuitive. For illustration, new engineering allows barristers and informants in the courtroom to touch specific countries of involvement on the screen and have it marked out for everybody else.[ 6 ]This is really utile as it allows specific countries of involvement to be highlighted to the justice and jury, whereas traditionally a informant or barrister would hold to manus out paperss and steer the jury or justice through the paperwork measure by measure. This engineering saves clip and therefore money, and besides assists barristers in doing their instance.
The debut of screens in the courtroom has besides allowed the installing of picture conferencing. Alleged colza victims and child informants can now attest via picture nexus from a constabulary station, whereas traditionally the alleged victim would hold testified in tribunal in forepart of the alleged wrongdoer and may hold found this distressing. Courts can besides be intimidating topographic points, particularly for vulnerable people or kids.
Since an proclamation by curates on the 28 November 2007, alleged colza victims can utilize video grounds from interviews given to the constabulary as their primary grounds.[ 7 ]8This purposes at undertaking England as one of the lowest strong belief rates in Europe for alleged colza – harmonizing to recent figures fewer than 15 per cent of onslaughts are reported and merely 5.7 per cent consequence in a strong belief. ”[ 9 ]Without the installing of screens and picture playing capablenesss in courtrooms this would non be possible.
The screens besides allow digital Reconstructions to be shown. Barristers can now show complex grounds to the justice and jury utilizing computing machine artworks on the in-courtroom screens. This makes it much easier to explicate confusing grounds and besides saves clip.
For illustration, in the Delaware Menezes instance Lorraine Medcraft ( 158 NLJ 818 ) studies “ one of the cardinal issues was where the constabulary were as Jean Charles de Menezes made his manner to Stockwell belowground station. An synergistic map was displayed demoing the path he took and how the constabulary were positioned as he progressed. ”[ 10 ]The usage of engineering in this case meant there was no demand for the station to be closed for a tribunal visit – which would hold been dearly-won and clip consuming.
Traditionally transcripts of tribunal proceedings would be handwritten so prepared and edited which could take big sums of clip. Cases are now recorded onto tape, and stenotype machines were introduced which allow transcripts to be produced more rapidly.
Further developments have allowed such transcripts to be made available within seconds. The new engineering means amanuensiss can transcribe proceedings and have their end product fed direct to the justice, advocate, canvassers, juries and clients.
Using this engineering in tribunal saves clip as informations can be inputted quicker and there is no longer a demand to compare notes and make up one’s mind what was said.[ 11 ]
New package in concurrence with courtroom screens allow computing machine plans to replace the traditional packages of paper which attorneies carry into tribunal.
Robert Verkaik studies that in merely one instance in the twelvemonth 2000, run offing charges entirely totalled ?80,000[ 12 ]. Hard copy paper paperss can now be scanned into a digital signifier and stored along with electronic paperss and images. These can so be viewed, annotated and shown to the courtroom on the screens.[ 13 ]This saves a important sum of times of all parties involved.
Problems from the usage of engineering in courtroom / struggles with tradition
However, the debut of engineering into the courtroom does non come without its jobs.
For case, it can be argued that leting kids, vulnerable people and alleged colza victims to give grounds over picture instead than in individual in tribunal could take down the dependability of a informant ‘ testimony as they do n’t hold to face the accused.
With respects to computing machine generated Reconstruction, some may reason that a computing machine simulation should non be trusted as they can ne’er be genuinely accurate. It besides raises inquiries of what if a simulation is incorrect, or if the Godheads miss an of import item? Avoiding utilizing simulations and computing machine artworks and utilizing more traditional methods can avoid these issues.
Although extinguishing paper tribunal packages and replacing them with digital options saves on paper, non all people are comfy with reading information off screens. It may besides take a long clip to larn the new package as some may non be as technologically adept as others. The hazard of informations loss is besides a monolithic concern, as the corruptness or loss of merely one indispensable piece of grounds could badly stultify a test.
As new engineering becomes more outstanding in courtrooms, an increasing figure of attorneies may get down to trust on computing machine presentations, hi-tech artworks and new package plans to assist them do their instance.
However this raises inquiries of judicial equity – particularly what consequence the engineering has on jurymans. For illustration, jurymans may get down to anticipate tonss of fancy artworks and presentations, whereas traditionally information was ever presented to them orally – on an equal playing field between the advocators.
David Paciocco, a condemnable jurisprudence professor at the University of Ottawa, says cautiousness is needed as engineering in the courtroom ‘has the ability to below the belt tip the legal playing field. ‘[ 14 ]
He gave the illustration of a prosecuting officer with a large budget dazzling jurymans with a PowerPoint show merely to be followed by a budget-challenged suspect reading from a xanthous legal tablet. This may ensue in jurymans sing the 2nd budget challenged defense mechanism party as ill-prepared, which is merely non the instance.[ 15 ]The resources available to each party should hold no consequence on the result of a test if justness is to be achieved.
There is besides a danger of complacence when engineering is relied on. For case, an advocator may replace clip that would hold been spent on fixing a well rehearsed unwritten bringing for making an impressive slideshow presentation.
Dependability of the engineering is important if it is to be effectual. Lawyers will hold spent a considerable sum of clip and money fixing their instance for test, and to hold engineering fail in the courtroom would ensue in incommodiousness and extra cost.
V. Harris ( ITLT 15 3 ( 8 ) ) says that there is a deficiency of conclusive grounds that engineering really does rush up a test, although ‘most users ‘ agree that it does hold a topographic point in tribunal and that non to encompass it will ensue in attorneies being ‘left behind ‘ .[ 16 ]
Both tradition and engineering evidently have their topographic point in the courtroom. However, stiffly keeping tradition should non curtail the betterment of tribunals as new engineering becomes available.
In a recent address, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge of Draycote said that immature jurymans are so used to reading information off screens they are no longer good listeners- they are being referred to as the ‘point and chink ‘ coevals.[ 17 ]If this is genuinely the instance it would be foolish to maintain showing all information orally out of tradition, when some information laid out on a screen would be found much more good by the juryman.
Although engineering has the potency to hold an progressively positive consequence on the courtroom, a balance must be achieved. A fancy presentation on a computing machine screen should complement unwritten tradition and non dominate the importance of the advocators.
The intent of a test is to utilize facts and concluding to decide differences and obtain justness. Available engineering should be used to its full potency to help this procedure, but should non be used to cut corners.