The court of the future

Laura Wajnryb McDonald1David Tait1, Rick Sarre2

Western Sydney University
University of South Australia

Just as it is changing almost every aspect of social life, digital technology is transforming justice processes too. Indeed, the move towards ‘virtual’ justice means that courts of the future will need to embrace technology in order to meet the demands placed upon them by all justice process participants. Court participants are becoming more likely to want to use their own digital devices to present and view evidence, while immersive technology will allow participants to take part from multiple locations. But while justice is, in a sense, a ‘service’, it is also a public good, and, as such, must remain concerned with protecting rights and freedoms. It is important to assess the extent to which such technological changes improve access to justice or, conversely, undermine fundamental rights. This panel will discuss the future of courts in light of two empirical research experiments, one that tested digital evidence in the jury room, and one that tested immersive technology in the courtroom.

Immersive technology in the courtroom

Laura Wajnryb McDonald

This presentation outlines findings from an empirical research experiment, which tested immersive technology in a mock-criminal trial. The model of the “Distributed Courtroom” involves participants being dispersed in multiple court-like spaces. While the judge and jury are physically located in the courtroom, each party (the defendant by themselves, or with their lawyer, the prosecutor, and the witness) comes in remotely via screens that are arrayed in logical positions around the courtroom, reflecting the classic setup. Importantly, remote participants are represented ‘true to life’ with appropriate sightlines and directional sound.

This model was developed in order to test the effectiveness of emerging technology, as well as possible juror prejudice against the remote defendant and issues of remote witness credibility. Based on the findings from this experiment, the research team developed guidelines for appropriate use of immersive technologies in court proceedings; these include recommendations for room configuration, location of the witness and the accused, sightlines and camera positioning.

Juries, Science and Popular Culture in the Age of Terror: The case of the Sydney bomber

David Tait

Terrorism has become an everyday reality in most contemporary societies and the consequences are far-reaching. Jurors in terrorism trials are expected to remain impartial in highly emotive trials while being confronted with graphic and interactive evidence. This presentation summarises a number of different perspectives on this topic, which are included in a recently published co-edited book by David Tait and Jane Goodman-Delahunty. These range from the legal landscape of terrorism trials in the western world, to the effect of visual evidence on jurors and the role of science in these cases. Lastly, recommendations for courts, legal practitioners and expert witnesses will be outlined.

 

The way forward

Rick Sarre

Just as it is changing almost every aspect of social life, digital technology is transforming justice processes too. Indeed, the move towards ‘virtual’ justice means that courts of the future will need to embrace technology in order to meet the demands placed upon them by all justice process participants. Court participants are becoming more likely to want to use their own digital devices to present and view evidence, while immersive technology will allow participants to take part from multiple locations. But while justice is, in a sense, a ‘service’, it is also a public good, and, as such, must remain concerned with protecting rights and freedoms. It is important to assess the extent to which such technological changes improve access to justice or, conversely, undermine fundamental rights. This panel will discuss the future of courts in light of two research projects, one focuses on juries in terrorism cases, and the other on immersive technology in the courtroom.

Biography

L.W.McDonald is a Project Manager and Research Officer at the Justice Research Group at Western Sydney University, and a PhD candidate in Criminology at the University of Sydney.

R.Sarre is a Professor in the School of Law at the University of South Australia and the President of ANZSOC.D.

Tait is Professor of Justice Research at Western Sydney University and Associate Professor at Telecom ParisTech.

ABOUT ANZSOC

The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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