Last night JUSTICE published its most recent report, In the Dock: Reassessing the use of the dock in criminal trial which reviews the criminal dock and recommends that its use is discontinued.
The audience from across the profession, including barristers, solicitors, judges and academics heard from the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales who welcomed the report for “raising the debate”. He stressed “the need to go back into the community and do justice locally” which he said “in no way [can be done] with a big secure dock”. He also thanked JUSTICE for “continuing to take up the points that we in the justice system have taken for granted” and concluded that he was looking forward to the wider debate that would follow the report.
Anthony Burton CBE, experienced criminal defence solicitor and JUSTICE Council member spoke to the room of his concerns about the use of the dock in trials:
“The dock marginalises the defendant. As a practitioner it becomes absurd trying to communicate with a client in the secure dock. There are so many occasions during trial where the client wants to say something and struggles to get their lawyers’ attention. The trial is an organic process. There is a compelling need for greater engagement of defendants with their own trial. The dock is undignified. I propose this relic be confined to a museum.”
He also went on to highlight the impracticalities of the dock when representing clients, citing the ‘phone hacking’ trial which lasted eight months.
“An application was made to the trial judge for the eight defendants to be allowed out of the dock – there were no security concerns. The application failed not on those grounds but because there was no room in the well of the court for them to sit. So they sat in the glass dock for eight months looking like a row of exhibits. I am told it costs around £40,000 to install a dock. If it had not been installed, there would have been plenty of room for everyone to be seated in the court.”
The speeches were followed by a lively and engaged discussion over drinks with useful suggestions from the floor about possible ways to pilot recommendations made in the report.
JUSTICE is grateful to Dechert LLP for assisting with the production of the report and hosting the launch.
The report has also received coverage in the national media both in print and broadcast press.
Listen to our Director of Criminal Justice, Jodie Blackstock, discuss the report on BBC Radio 4’s PM Programme with Eddie Mair (2 July).