Technology in the criminal courts: How does technology influence judgment in courtrooms?
I'm writing a paper on the influence of technology in court. Some questions that arose are: How can technology be used in a criminal courtroom? What are some advantages and disadvantages of technology in the courtroom? What kind of impact does technology have on court proceedings and decisions? What are two technologies that can be used in a courtroom trial, and how do these technologies affect a case judgment?
Resources would be fantastic! Thanks in advance!
- CliveLv 76 years agoFavorite Answer
I can just give you one or two uses that I know of. When I did jury service in an English Crown Court, we spent the whole two weeks on a trial of a man accused of several counts of rape and indecent assault on his three daughters and one of their friends. The friend was how it got to court! - she came for a sleepover with her friend, the youngest of the three, Dad started inappropriately touching her, she went home next day and told her Mum, Mum predictably went ballistic and told the police.
By the time of the trial, only the oldest daughter was over 18. As an adult, she gave evidence from the witness box (and rather more of it than even the prosecution was expecting!), but the other three were spared having to face the court. The middle daughter and the friend gave evidence over video link from another room, and the youngest (aged 10) didn't even have to do that. Instead we got played a video of her talking with a policewoman in a rather nice playroom equipped with soft toys. So we still heard what she had to say, just in a rather different way. Thinking back on it, that may be one of the reasons we got sent out of court while the lawyers discussed a point of law amongst themselves. This happened several times - the jury only judges fact, so we shouldn't listen to discussion of legal points, and get sent out when they do. I'm thinking the prosecution needed to ask if the videotape is admissible evidence. Clearly the judge ruled that it was.
The whole point, of course, is that a courtroom can be very intimidating to kids and the court wants to help them give their evidence. Add to that, in Crown Court the judge must wear his wig and robes, and the barristers must wear wig, black gown, white shirt or blouse, and white bow tie with two bands hanging below (if you've seen a presbyterian minister in full dress with two white bands hanging from his clerical collar, you know what they look like). A barrister not in the proper rig is officially invisible! The intention is to emphasise the formality and seriousness of court, but it might not look like that to a child. It was a very hot and sweaty August so the judge had given permission for wigs off anyway, but I suspect that if he hadn't done that already, he would have done for when the barristers were questioning the children over video link.
I remember the middle daughter asking over the video link "Is he there?" Possibly as the camera moved from the prosecution to the defence barrister, she caught a glimpse of Dad in the dock. And there's another benefit of that technology - keeping her out of court meant she didn't know he was there and felt she could speak more freely rather than know he's hearing it all. Of course she COULD have known if she'd known more about how trials work, but it happened that she didn't, so that's not really a good reason.
(I keep referring to barristers... in England, the legal profession is split. You go to a solicitor and they can do most things, including defending you in the lowest level of court - the magistrates' court. There is no right to a jury trial in England and about 97% of cases end up there, to be heard by a bench of three local volunteers who give up a day every 2 weeks to hear cases - or sometimes just a district judge. Magistrates aren't legally trained so in a way it's sort of like a small jury to make decisions, and if they need legal advice, the court clerk IS trained and they can ask the clerk. But do something serious so it has to go to Crown Court, and your solicitor will have to engage a barrister to do the talking as solicitors have no right of audience there. The difference in what court can deal with the case is roughly the same as the difference in the US between a felony and a misdemeanour - we scrapped that in 1968 and replaced it with a more flexible way of deciding whether it needs to go before a judge and jury or just before magistrates.)
So we spent a few days of the trial watching TV! And a good thing too - if it helps young witnesses give their evidence without being scared, that's got to be good. If that hadn't been possible, I doubt we would have heard so much from the girls and it would have been harder to decide. As it was, we decided he was guilty on all charges. We didn't get to see the sentencing - that's rare in Crown Court as the judge will call for probation and other reports to help him decide and hold a sentencing hearing about 4 weeks later - so as instructed if we wanted to know, I called the court after a month and found he has a life sentence. No surprise there - as we heard from the prosecuting barrister after we gave our verdicts, he has previous convictions for the same kind of thing. So the judge hit him with the maximum sentence for rape.
Another use of video I know of in English courts is video link from prisons. An accused person has not been given bail and is remanded in custody, so he's in prison (we don't have separate jails). If he pleads not guilty he's got to be in court for the trial, and will have to get transported back and forth from prison every day in a secure van. But there are other kinds of hearing, often just procedural ones that might not take long. Instead of carting him all the way to court and back again for what might be a 15 minute hearing, it's much cheaper to have him appear in court by video link. Then he just needs to be taken to the video link room in the prison.
Back to that trial - I noticed the judge using a laptop. I have no idea why, but he could have been using it to take notes. At the end of a Crown Court trial, the two barristers make their closing speeches, and the judge makes a summing-up speech. That speech is important - he picks out the key things the jury should think about, explains the law if it needs explaining, explains that "you must be sure beyond reasonable doubt to convict", and will say things like "if that is what you think from this evidence, you must convict". He needs his notes of what was said and if he can type, it's quicker to make notes on a laptop. This speech is the last thing the jury hears before it considers its verdict(s), so it can be very influential. Now that trial was 2 weeks... we had a recent one about newspapers hacking into mobile phones (the accusations caused one British national newspaper to close down), and that lasted 6 months. By the end, the jury is going to need a refresher unless it has been taking notes too!
- JeffreyLv 76 years ago
I get paid to write papers. But in this case I'm almost certain that you will take my work verbatim and turn it in as your own. That's lying and I have a right to refuse to participate in something that I find morally offensive. OMG! Maybe I don't have that right any more!!