CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Mulcahy on Online Criminal Trials

Linda Mulcahy (Centre for Socio-Legal Studies) has posted Virtual Poverty? What Happens when Criminal Trials Go Online? (in Dave Cowan and Ann Mumford (eds) Pandemic Legalities: Legal Responses to COVID-19 – Justice and Social Responsibility (University of Bristol Press Law, Society, Policy Series 2021 (Forthcoming)) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
The challenge posed by the editors of this collection is for authors to reflect on what good can come out of the pandemic. This is far from easy to address in the context of ever more evidence of a divided polity, but this chapter will look at the rapid rise in the use of video hearings caused by the pandemic and their potential to improve the lot of the poor. Academics, including myself, have been sceptical about the extent to which the needs of lay users and open justice are served when technology is used to circumvent the need for everyone to come to a physical court. What is different about developments during the pandemic is that they have prompted experiments in which everyone including elite legal actors have been forced online and made to reflect on the experience. In the sections which follow I outline developments to date before going on to consider the extent to which totally online trials have the potential to create a more level playing field in the criminal justice system. In doing so I argue that there is a danger that critics of the use of technology are in danger of romanticising physical courthouses as places which are better at dignifying lay users of the justice system or encouraging their participation.

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