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.

Preserving eyewitness accounts with iWitnessed

Dr Helen Paterson1, Dr Celine van Golde1, Dr Chris Devery2, Professor Nicholas Cowdery1, Professor Richard Kemp3
1University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 2NSW Police Force, Sydney, Australia, 3UNSW Sydney, Sydney, Australia

In the immediate aftermath of an incident, limited police resources often restrict opportunities for police to thoroughly interview witnesses for several days or even weeks after the incident. Additionally, sometimes witnesses do not come forward to report incidents immediately after they occur. Such delays are problematic because research on memory shows us that forgetting occurs very rapidly and that our memories are susceptible to contamination. Inconsistencies or inaccuracies in eyewitness accounts can hinder investigations and undermine the perceived value of this evidence, leading to failed prosecutions. In response to this issue, a team of researchers in the fields of psychology and law have worked with the NSW Police Force to develop iWitnessed, a free smart phone application designed to collect and enhance the quality of eyewitness evidence. Using our collective expertise in empirical memory research, policing practices, legislation and admissibility of evidence, we have developed a tool that will facilitate police investigations and prosecutions. In this presentation we will describe the background to the development of iWitnessed. We will then present promising findings from recent empirical studies investigating the efficacy of iWitnessed in terms of usability, memory preservation, and impact on psychological well-being.


Dr. Helen Paterson is a Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology at the University of Sydney. She is an expert in the areas of applied social and cognitive psychology. She has published over 30 scientific papers, predominantly in the area of eyewitness memory. She has experience working with the New South Wales Police Force, Fire and Rescue NSW, and WorkCover NSW. She regularly gives presentations about eyewitness memory to judges, lawyers, and police officers.


The modest GPS as crime fighting tool in informal settlements

Dr Bernadine Benson1
1University Of South Africa, Rietfontein, South Africa

South Africa, similar to other developing countries, has a number of informal settlements. An “informal settlement” refers to the illegal and unplanned occupation of land by people who have constructed groups of housing units on the land (Barry & Ruther, 2005:43). These informal settlements pose a challenge for town planners and other municipal/borough managers. But more specifically they pose a challenge for law enforcement agencies and other providers of essential services. Within the South African context there is not a significant amount of discussions around geospatial intelligence to aid law enforcement in their duties. Despite this, the researcher is of the view that the geospatial technology which forms part of geospatial intelligence can be considered adequate to manage, investigate, and analyse crime.

This paper will discuss the value and use of geospatial technology, more specifically the GPS to accurate map and plot crime events in the informal settlement of KwaMashu in Kwa Zulu Natal and argue for its use to enhance comprehensive crime scene investigations. When coupled with the Theory of Delinquent places, it is a crime fighting tool that can serve law enforcement well when planning crime prevention and other mitigating operations.


Dr Benson joined Unisa in 2007 after a career of 19 years with the South African Police Service. She completed her D Litt et Phil in Police Science in 2013 and her area of specialisation was in Crimes against cultural heritage in South Africa. Dr Benson is the Chair of Department of the Department of Police Practice. She is the Editor-in-Chief for the South African Museums Association Bulletin (SAMAB) Journal also a sub-editor for the POLSA Journal. Her areas of research interest include police corruption, integrity testing, art crime, art theft, fakes and forgeries of art and other heritage items, looting of archaeological sites, social media, and teaching pedagogies for ODL environments. As an academic manager, Dr Benson is not directly involved in tuition this year; however she is still supervising both M and Phd students at the Department of Police Practice and interacts with students daily.

Dr Benson was the recipient of the Award for Excellence in Tuition: student support in 2016 for the College of Law.

The commodification of mobile phone surveillance: An analysis of the consumer spyware industry

Diarmaid Harkin1, Adam Molnar1
1Deakin University , Burwood, Australia

This presentation will report on the findings of an investigation into the consumer spyware industry. While consumers of ‘spyware’ have often been government and law enforcement, there is an increasing attempt to market, sell and commodify ‘spyware’ for use by wider audiences. ‘Spyware’ is now sold as a security-product aimed at businesses, parents, and intimate partners. This paper will report on an investigation into 9 prominent spyware vendors outlining their attempts to commodify their product. Spyware vendors face particularly fraught marketing challenges as the general deployment of spyware is (a) often utilised in forms of intimate partner abuse, (b) corrosive to many forms of social relations, and (c) has limited contexts where it could be deployed without violating surveillance laws. This paper compares the social meaning vendors attempt to give to spyware and contrasts this against the powers of surveillance provided by the product. Some notes from the technical and user-analysis of the spyware will also be provided.

Dr Diarmaid Harkin is an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Deakin University. His current active research projects examine private security companies collaboratig with family violence services, the consumer spyware industry, and the challenges of cyber-policing.

Dr Adam Molnar is a lecturer in Criminology at Deakin University. His research is primarily interested in the intersections of technology, surveillance, privacy, policing and information security.


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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