Editorial: Virtual justice?


{mgmediabot}images/stories/Audio/june.8.editorial.mp3|true(Click here to play)|300|300{/mgmediabot}
Are trials the new reality series, coming to you on your trusty computer?
Will courtrooms soon be relegated to the shelf as shiny, new technologies open the door to “virtual hearings?”

Can it be true that instead of toddling down to courthouses to watch trials, the proposition that “justice must be seen to be done,” will be covered instead by spectators settling into comfy armchairs with  wireless Macs, bags of Cheetos and cellphones to cast votes?

I can see it now: “I’m a Criminal … Get me Out of Here!” Or how about “Survivor: The last juror standing.”
Here’s one with potential: “The Amazing Pace,” pitting judges in a head-to-head contest to determine who delivers the most convoluted, long-winded decision.

And of course there are some that can even recycle time-worn existing reality shows like “The Biggest Loser,” for litigators; “Big Brother,” you know who you are; “The Bachelor,” there’s one in every firm.
(My personal favourite double entendre: “Last Comic Standing.”)

Well, the virtual hearing has already happened in the U.K. where Justice Secretary Jack Straw is a big booster of the system that would end the quaint custom of accuseds and victims having to set foot in a courtroom.

By using video links between police stations and magistrates’ courts, it’s possible to sentence a defendant without him/her ever even darkening the door of a courthouse, The Times reports.

In a test case a drunk driver was fined and banned from getting behind the wheel within hours after he was arrested, while another case in which a man refused to give a blood sample, was adjourned. According to news reports, the test case was held at the Charing Cross police station in London, linked to the Camberwell Green Court.

It’s said the scheme will save the government millions. But lawyers worry whether the virtual courts will actually add to delay. And they fret that having to sit next to convicts in the small rooms during sentencing would be unsafe, although as Straw noted, the number of times lawyers are attacked by their own clients is “very rare indeed.”

Under the plan, there will be exceptions to what type of trials will be conducted this way, but by Sept. 14, other police stations in South London and North Kent will be linked to courts and handling 15,000 cases per year.

Michael Brett Young, Law Institute of Victoria chief executive joked: “Will we have virtual courts, which could lead to virtual prison sentences which would no doubt lead to criticism by the virtual Herald Sun?”

Meanwhile, in the colonies we’re still working on allowing cameras inside courthouses much less inside the courtrooms so we probably won’t be dragged into this new reality anytime soon.

Although, video set dates seem to be working in the criminal system so it’s not hard to imagine that at some point it will happen here.

I think technology is fantastic and I’m all for positive changes in that realm as you may know by listening to the weekly audio version of this editorial, and as you will soon see if you keep an eye on our website at www.lawtimesnews.com.

But I’m wondering what Law Times readers think of the prospect of virtual hearings in Ontario? Let’s find out. Send your letters or comments to me at [email protected] and I’ll post them on our website.
Call it: “So You Think You Can Write a Letter to the Editor?”
- Gretchen Drummie

Free newsletter

Our newsletter is FREE and keeps you up to date on all the developments in the Ontario legal community. Please enter your email address below to subscribe.

Recent articles & video

OBA Innovator-in-Residence Colin Lachance aims to help lawyers integrate AI into their practice

Ontario Superior Court rejects mining company’s breach of agreement and confidentiality claims

Ontario Superior Court orders plaintiff to pay substantial costs despite injury claims

Labour and employment lawyer Muneeza Sheikh opens her practice as part of 'building a brand'

Ontario Superior Court awards damages in domestic assault case due to defendant's default

Ontario Privacy Commissioner calls for stronger access and privacy protections

Most Read Articles

Labour and employment lawyer Muneeza Sheikh opens her practice as part of 'building a brand'

Ontario Superior Court awards damages in domestic assault case due to defendant's default

Ont. Superior Court upholds Human Rights Tribunal's denial of reconsideration in discrimination case

Ontario Privacy Commissioner calls for stronger access and privacy protections