Test conducted on the feasibility of remote jury trial

Test conducted on the feasibility of remote jury trial

The coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult for the courts to operate safely, so efforts have been made to see whether it is feasible for jury trials to be held remotely in their entirety. Justice, an all-party law reform and human rights organisation, ran an experiment for exactly this reason and the results were mostly successful.

Professor Linda Mulcahy of Oxford University and Dr Emma Rowden from Oxford Brookes University evaluated the experimental jury trial and saw that there were many things that worked well and others that needed improving. For example, they said that among the advantages was the fact that the defendant ‘was treated with much more dignity than when they are placed in an enclosed dock’ and that everyone taking part in the trial was ‘accorded equal visual status’.

There were some problems, however, mostly of technical nature. Some jurors disappeared from the screen from time to time, which means that something like that, in a real trial, could lead to an appeal. Furthermore, it was difficult to make sure that the trial is held according to the law, as there is no way to be certain that the jurors will not take pictures or record the trial.

All in all, the remote jury trial was described as ‘a success for open justice’. This is an avenue that can and should be explored since there are valid arguments on both sides of the issue. The technology exists and it is only going to get better, so the discussion can start now, especially with the various social distancing measures still in place around the country and the globe.