Doing justice in virtual reality: results of a randomised controlled trial

Prof. David Tait1
1Western Sydney University, Penrith South, Australia

Digital technologies are transforming the way courts do business  – just as they have for every other part of the justice system and those who come into contact with them.  Justice processes increasingly use files and evidence in digital form. They employ on-line platforms to collect information, machine learning to assist decision-making and video links to connect participants. This paper outlines the next frontier – a possible future in which some justice hearings take place entirely in virtual reality. Participants remain in their own spaces but see the other participants, life-size, embedded in a virtual courtroom environment created entirely by software. The courtroom could be presented as holograms, 3D video or immersive 2D series of screens.  Each participant makes eye contact with the person they are addressing and receives sound from the direction of the person speaking.

This talk presents the preliminary results of a randomised controlled trial comparing co-present and virtual hearings in terms of how witnesses experience the process of a neighbourhood dispute hearing. The study is part of a six-year project funded by the Canadian SSHRC through the  University of Montreal, with fellow team members Fred Lederer (William and Mary College, Virginia), Christian Licoppe (Paristech) and Meredith Rossner (LSE).  The paper reviews how such technologies could enhance, or undermine, justice.


David Tait is Professor of Justice Research in the Digital Humanities Research Group at the University of Western Sydney, and Professeur associé
 at Telecom ParisTech.  His interests include court architecture, justice rituals, and technologies used in court and tribunal hearings.  He has led five Australian Research Council projects in these areas together with scholars in architecture, psychology, law, forensic science and media studies.  His work has challenged the the use of cages or docks to contain defendants on trial, and developed immersive technologies to provide a less prejudicial alternative.


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