Charity calls for halt to virtual justice expansion

Video justice threatens defendants’ rights and undermines trust in the justice system, according to a report from a national charity that urged the government to delay further expansion until research has assessed its impact.

The research from Transform Justice found that appearing via videolink disadvantaged defendants, particularly those with disabilities or learning difficulties and those who do not speak English as a first language.

The report, Defendants on video – conveyor belt justice or a revolution in access? found that 58% of respondents thought appearing on video made it more difficult for defendants to understand what was going on or participate in hearings.

Seventy per cent said it was difficult to recognise whether someone on video had a disability and 74% said that those without legal representation were disadvantaged by appearing on video.

Transform Justice called for a halt to the expansion of videolink hearings until research has assessed its impact on juries, judges and defendants.

Its director, Penelope Gibbs, said: ‘Our report sounds a warning bell. If video justice disadvantages disabled people and risks undermining trust in the justice system, is it worth forging ahead with trial by Skype?’

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: ‘We know video hearings reduce court time, improve public safety and save money for the tax-payer. Videolink technology is used to make the court process easier for vulnerable victims and witnesses.’

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