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On March 23, 2020, jury trials in England and Wales had been suspended in response to COVID-19. This was finished to guard public security as social distancing measures had been tough to implement in courtrooms. Since then, a number of proposals, reminiscent of distant trials, have been put ahead to handle how jury trials would possibly proceed, and find out how to sort out the backlog of crown court docket instances which presently stands at over 40,500.

Jury trials are utilized in the most serious criminal cases and are typically seen as truthful, consultant, and an essential part of the UK felony justice system, which works on the presumption of innocence and that everybody has the right to a fair trial. It is important that options, whether or not momentary or everlasting, restrict the possibilities of a miscarriage of justice and maintain public faith within the system.

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The digital trials

Between April and July, a project taking a look at how distant jury trials could possibly be designed and carried out pretty in response to COVID-19 was piloted by JUSTICE – a corporation working to strengthen justice within the UK – with others together with Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service and Oxford Brookes College. The research explored the chances of conducting truthful trials remotely with individuals in different places and aimed to guage the know-how, examine it with face-to-face hearings, contemplate points that will give rise to authorized challenges, and to guage classes realized.

All mock trials had been based mostly on the identical fictional case and authorized roles and members of the jury had been performed by volunteers and invited specialists. Jurors took half remotely from their houses. Together with deliberation time, the trials took round half a day to finish – with elements of the method “extraordinarily abbreviated” as described by the venture staff. Proceedings got here collectively on a single display – as you may need with a Zoom assembly – with the jury showing in smaller bins. The jurors, clerk, and decide had entry to a personal chat operate the place they may spotlight technical points and entry related paperwork.