01 July 2020
Wired reports on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the justice system, where the vast majority of hearings in magistrates' courts are now being conducted by videolink.
Support our work: become a Friend of Statewatch from as little as £1/€1 per month.
"Your day in court, which could change your life, is now on laptop instead of in person. You struggle with an intermittent connection, craning to hear the tinny sound and squinting to see faces of the people who hold your fate in their hands. For many charged with a crime since March, this is reality.
Courts have gone virtual, at least magistrates’ courts, where low-level crimes and all first appearances are dealt with. The law pre-pandemic was any person charged with a crime and denied police bail must have a remand hearing before a judge within 24-hours.
Ninety per cent of magistrates hearings used remote technology in some form by April 24 – a huge jump on previous figures. The largely untested and imperfect system can be slow and unreliable, excluding the criminal defendant from their own hearing. “We are seriously concerned about the difficulties remote hearings present for vulnerable defendants and the potential risk for miscarriages of justice to occur,” says Emily Bolton, the director of law charity APPEAL.
Research from justice watchdog Fair Trials surveyed defence solicitors during the pandemic and found “drastic deviations” from ordinary procedures has left people’s rights being “overlooked” and questioned whether defendants’ rights were being protected. Despite remote hearings keeping the system functioning, the report suggests defendants are receiving less effective legal assistance, less effective participation in hearings and less ability to challenge information presented."
Spotted an error? If you've spotted a problem with this page, just click once to let us know.
Statewatch does not have a corporate view, nor does it seek to create one, the views expressed are those of the author. Statewatch is not responsible for the content of external websites and inclusion of a link does not constitute an endorsement. Registered UK charity number: 1154784. Registered UK company number: 08480724. Registered company name: The Libertarian Research & Education Trust. Registered office: MayDay Rooms, 88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH. © Statewatch ISSN 1756-851X. Personal usage as private individuals "fair dealing" is allowed. We also welcome links to material on our site. Usage by those working for organisations is allowed only if the organisation holds an appropriate licence from the relevant reprographic rights organisation (eg: Copyright Licensing Agency in the UK) with such usage being subject to the terms and conditions of that licence and to local copyright law.