Professor Laura Hoyano writes for The Criminal Law Review

December 7, 2021

Professor Laura Hoyano has written an article entitled “Postage Stamp Justice? Virtual Trials in the Crown Courts under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill”
[2021] Crim LR 1029-1050 for The Criminal Law Review.

Examining The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, she observes that it contains provisions on virtual justice which go much further than the emergency measures in the Coronavirus Act 2020. Piecing together the scattered provisions in the Bill, she finds that it empowers a Crown Court or Magistrates’ Court to order defendants to participate in their trial remotely, including for their testimony, against the defence’s wishes. The Bill also authorises trials to be conducted entirely remotely, including with jurors sitting together from a remote location, again without the parties’ consent. The trial judge can exercise these powers, without giving reasons in open court, by concluding that this is “in the interests of justice”, discretion which the Bill leaves undefined.

Professor Hoyano observes that there is no provision delimiting the circumstances in which these radical provisions can be invoked, such as a public health emergency. She states:

“The Bill envisages that these fundamental shifts in the criminal trial will be permanent. Ministers’ certification of compliance under the Human Rights Act 1998 is undermined by the European Court of Human Rights judgment on which they rely. Focusing on jury trials, it explores the practical implications for effective participation of all parties, witnesses, jurors and judges in the criminal trial. It draws on empirical lessons from the experience of the family courts with wholly remote fact-finding hearings during the pandemic, about how effective participation can be subtly hampered by remote technology. The overall picture for the quality of criminal justice is concerning, with implications for compliance with ECHR Article 6.”

Read full piece here: [The Criminal Law Review – (Westlaw UK)]