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Abolishing the dock – a step too far in modernising the Courtroom?

The Lord Chief Justice, the country’s most senior Judge, has questioned whether the dock is ‘really necessary’ during Court appearances. It has been suggested that Defendants sit with their legal team in the main part of the Courtroom rather than being required to sit in the dock.

The dock has been a clear symbolic feature in Courtrooms for centuries and some argue that the removal of such a key element in a trial is a step too far in the modernisation of today’s Courtrooms.

In a campaign to bring the Courtroom into the 21st century, we have seen the arrival of digital technology (iPads at the ready!) and the proposal of Skype and Face Time to be introduced for pre-trial hearings. We at Knight Polson have seen evidence given using conference facilities over the internet. Many argue that this detracts from the importance and severity of appearances at court by allowing defendants to appear ‘in Court’. Body language can be a key feature of giving evidence and this may not be considered so easily when evidence is not given in person.  

Although this may been seen as modernising centuries of tradition, it does also have financial benefits. The upkeep of traditional Courtrooms is increasingly expensive particularly as they are mostly in very costly buildings. The removal of the dock could result in less need for these buildings and could allow Courtrooms to move to more cost-effective options. Employment Tribunals are a step in this direction where a more informal approach is taken.

However, the prospect of this abolishment raises issues of where, in criminal cases, potentially dangerous defendants should then be sat. Would they sit with their legal team amongst a busy Court or would they still have to sit in a more secured place such as the dock? It would certainly require someone deciding which defendants are deemed dangerous enough for the dock to still be used? More importantly as this would be deduced in advance, even the most informed reasoning cannot predict every single defendant’s actions in the Courtroom.

This firm deals with all manner of claims in the Magistrates Court, Crown Court, County Court, High Court and the Employment Tribunals. If you would like to know any more on this particular topic, please click firmly here (or here!). If you have queries, please do not hesitate to contact us today.

Posted in: Law

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