Research Report

Virtual courtroom experiment: Data report: Third evaluation of a virtual pilot study conducted by JUSTICE


This report provides a summary of the views of almost a hundred people who participated in the virtual jury trial experiments conducted by JUSTICE in conjunction with AVMI (now part of Kinly) in the summer of 2020. This is the third in a series of reports on the JUSTICE experiments. 1. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused considerable disruption to court business. The criminal justice system is said to be now facing a backlog of 40,000 cases that will be difficult to clear. Some Crown courts have now opened for jury trials with social distancing measures in place but this is not sufficient to manage existing demand or begin to clear the backlog. The backlog has caused a number of serious problems. These include defendants on remand being incarcerated for longer periods; increased waiting times; risks of more abandoned prosecutions; increased stress and a lack of work for the legal profession. 2. The purpose of the four experiments was to determine whether it is possible in a crisis such as the one we are facing to hold ‘dispersed’ or virtual trials in which the principles of fairness, accuracy of evidence and certainty can be met. In order to test the case for virtual jury trials JUSTICE and a firm of technology experts (AVMI) organised four virtual trial experiments between April-June 2020. 3. In virtual trials all the participants appear from their separate locations so that the courtroom takes the form of a shared ‘public’ screen. A series of other secure virtual rooms also exist behind this shared view of the virtual courtroom. These include a virtual room for the defendant to consult with counsel and a jury deliberation room. The platform that AVMI have designed for this experiment also allows documents to be viewed on screen. Certain elements of the experimental design, such as the type of case and the people involved, were consistent across all four trials, however, this was a piece of action research where improvements were made between trials, culminating in the creation of a physical jury hub. 4. The fourth trial with a physical jury hub was widely considered by the organisers to be the most successful of the four experiments. There were far fewer technical problems and all of the responsibilities of jurors regarding technical provision were removed. These findings are in addition to the benefits outlined in the first report of the pilot which suggested that the defendant being more central to deliberations on screen that they would be in a physical court had a democratizing effect. This report adds the voices of those who took part in each of the experiments and responded to a questionnaire sent out by JUSTICE.

Attached files


Teeder , Wend
Mulcahy, Linda
Rowden, Emma

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Architecture


Year of publication: 2020
Date of RADAR deposit: 2022-06-30

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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