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Videolink threatens access to justice
Transform Justice report questions whether the convenience of video justice is worth the impact on fairness and disengagement of defendants from the process.

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Conveyor belt justice?

Embracing technology is the progressive thing to do. We all know that – it has enriched our lives immeasurably. Sometimes, however, it is really important to pause for thought, and ask whether a seemingly obvious opportunity for a technological solution is actually one that is worth grasping.

That is the first sentence from Professor Mike Hough’s foreword to a new (22 October 2017) report from Transform Justice on courts’ use of videolink: Defendants on video – conveyor belt justice or a revolution in access?

The research

The report is based on an online survey (with 180 respondents), eight telephone interviews and a round table discussion all conducted this year.

Video courts (where defendants appear on video into court from prisons and police stations) have been around since 1992 when the first prison-court video link was established between Norwich Prison and Great Yarmouth Magistrates’ Court. Video links were originally used for case management and remand hearings. The first police station to court video links were tried in 2009. A room in a police station was equipped with video monitors, and the means to connect the room to a local court. These “virtual” courts were used for defendants who had been detained by the police (either arrested on warrant or charged and denied bail by the police), who would otherwise be transported in a van to the court.

Videolink has been presented as a huge step forward in convenience, and thus access to justice. The report acknowledges that:

prisoners on video avoid the apparently disgusting “sweat box” vans, and hours waiting in a court cell for a fifteen minute appearance. Vans transporting prisoners regularly arrive at court late, thus delaying hearings and sometimes keeping witnesses waiting. And the inconvenience prisoners fear most is that they will be transferred to a completely new prison at the end of the court day. So for prisoners, video courts are definitely more convenient. As well as (maybe) saving the courts service money.

However, this report is mainly concerned with the negative consequences of video-justice; particularly the impact on access to justice.

Reduced access to justice?

Transform Justice argues that, even in normal, physical court appearances, defendants frequently feel excluded from our complex criminal justice system and that video justice can exacerbate this:

Good advocates are the gatekeepers to that system – they advise and support their clients and articulate their defence. Video courts jeopardise and compromise that relationship. There are technical problems which mean that defendants trying to talk to their lawyer over video can’t hear or see well, and the service often breaks down. The fifteen minute time slots allowed for consultations are not nearly long enough, particularly when it is the first meeting between lawyer and client. The Lammy report highlighted that defendants from BAME communities too often distrust the legal profession. Our research suggests video justice is a recipe for increasing that distrust.

Access to justice means ensuring that defendants understand and can participate in their own criminal justice process. This is challenging in the best of circumstances, given we often put defendants in a secure dock, and use complex procedures and language. There is evidence that forcing or encouraging defendants to appear on video compromises their effective participation. Respondents to the survey, including magistrates, were concerned that being on video changed defendants’ behaviour in two ways, both negative.

In some cases, being remote made defendants feel they were not part of the proceedings and disengage. In other cases, being remote made defendants frustrated, and robbed them of the ability to gauge the atmosphere of the room and the impact of their behaviour. Lawyers said defendants were more likely to swear and walk out. Those with mental health problems, learning difficulties and/or autism are doubly disadvantaged, particularly if their disability is “hidden”.

The testimony of study participants makes for an interesting insight into what video justice is like in practice. Here’s the experience of one lawyer:

On those occasions when the video link works, we have very limited time. We often use a lot of it shouting for the custody staff at the other end to hear us on the video screen in the video room, and then come in and speak to us. When the defendant is produced on the other end, he seems remote, and I often find I can’t be sure if he understands my empathy/sympathy/other emotions which are essential to cultivating a working relationship in this very difficult circumstance.

A Youth Offending Team officer highlights another key area of concern:

You can only see their face [on video] and there is little interaction. In my experience unless you have time with the young person to prepare, it is very hard to tell the difference between surly teenage behaviour, a total lack of confidence and/or significant learning difficulties and a lack of understanding.

Conclusion

The report argues strongly that without effective participation there is no access to justice. It also highlights the lack of any extensive research into the impact of video justice.

It is clear that video-links are convenient for the justice system, particularly prisons and court staff. However, it seems clear that  the hardware frequently not work properly with all participants struggling to understand each other clearly. More importantly, there appear to be strong indications that using video links severely hampers both the process of justice and any perception of its fairness.

 

Blog posts in the Criminal Justice category are kindly sponsored by Get the Data which provides Social Impact Analytics to enable organisations to demonstrate their impact on society. GtD has no editorial influence on the contents of this site.

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  1. I am being defrauded in a number of courts in NI the primary two are the High Court where a case of fraud ++ & murder was taken fraudulently by Johns Elliot & DND law, my name fraudulently submitted after I advised a polcie inspector stated in Nov 2014 this case must not go further no probate granted no monies released. Littel did I know that my own sister (for her own serious & personal reasons signed probate after I told her not to oin the instruction of a polcie inspector & the firms conducting fraud git a criminal case before a civil court. Due to a most ‘dangerous’ conflict of interest self professed by the court & the new solicitor I had to get (verified by that solicitors family to me) the fraud from that solicitor’s file, proving the needless murder of my Father for a paragraph on the estate that my sister & I couldn’t explain has been shown to have been scribbled out on an old set of notes (no draft or will written thought £300 taken for this. All truth out the NFIB made to ‘go away’ at a station local to the judicial address. Only after I retrieved the truth from a ‘non-existent’ file from my own solicitor was there a NMO served to me to keep me & my unwell sister apart. In over 5 years I have NEVER been afforded the right to contest this (a) a stiff & formal condolence noe sent 3 months before the NMO) (b) as we haven’t had a relationship in years? I wanted to continue our close relationship as sisters but she wasn’t allowed! (c) as I am accused on court & police papers of sending our late Father’s cousin to SPY on her? Our Father’s cousin wrote to the court stating I had no idea she had gone to my sister’s home & she went with a condolence note having the door closed in her face. She called me about this very concerned for my sister just as our parents were telling eachother & me.. I believe her to be paranoid & I do understand with a witness statement from a forensic scientist that my sister was being ‘hit & controlled over a period of years’ spoke from her own mouth that I have been most understanding of her position unable to help me as she was I believe from her behaviour, being threatened.
    Mr Jonathon Coen from Johns Elliot offered to ‘settle out of court’ with the family Minister, in June 2017- no ‘settlement’ (for fraud++ & needless murder) & I was forced under duress by a new judge Ms Mc Bride to take a case.
    They had a videolink with a new judge in family court in September this year as Mr Mc Kibben forstly would not permit mw or my Father’s cousin in to the court with our solicitor- the reason – he was concerned for my heart; though he didn;t allow my Fther’s cousin in & served me a NMO fraudulently from 2016 without right of contest. I have been bullied by police at her station & my own over this & then allowed in to Mr Mckibben’s court on 11/7/18 asking him to please hear from my brother-in-law’s first & second wives & the lady with whom he had an affair & a child in between who refused the offer of marraige to see how he treated them- Mr Mc Kibben stated he would not do this. I stated I would have to do this through Legal Aid & he state d’I would not do this’. A shocked legal turned to look at me. I left the court cried & had another opportunity to speak with a new judge Mr Meehan last month but tyhe chip in my laptop has a problem I found out recently & I couldn’t get connected. I wrote apologising explaining asking to come in to the court directly but was sent a secind date 6/10/21 to again video link. This time the court couldn;t hear me & I had to write out FRAUD ON YOUR COURT’ MURDER & got as far as wriging ‘GOV & STORMONT before the lady was about to cut me so I coulnd’t get ‘involved’ written in time. Mr Meehan read the words out as I held them to the camera & did appear shocked. He told me he could not lip read & I cried all day from that as the manner in which my Father was murdered with his throat cut to prevent hi speaking with me he too was mouthing words that I couldn’t understand- I could have saved his life, so I relived the trauma when the same presented with a judge. Disturbingly another slot was arranged for yesterday & this time I prepared over 2 dozen block capitol lettered pages to hold to the camera to advise Mr Meehan of how there was fraud on his court & how this had been enabled by the murder. I couldn’t get connected until 11 minutes later. Then when I was seen the lady told me to come back at 11am. I did & as they were talking about another case I waited. I heard her tell me to watch my emails as she would email me when ready to speak to me, but as soon as her email presented I linked back in to see the judge’s chair empty; he had left court. She told me they had discussed the case (without me) & that I would have a chance to come in for the initiation of court proceedings against me in November. This is a travesty of justice yet again & I am being defrauded once again which happend before Covid, but now with video link I believe this is worse. I wish to initiate crimianl proceedings but realise that this needs to be seen by the SFO who have informed me they are now investigating the synopsis I sent them. Due to the Everard case & police across the UK being told to take violent crimes against women more seriously, this is going to help bring our the massive fraud being conducted orchestrated since the truth came out to my sister & me by one Judge Mr Mark Horner who sees fit to furthet the fraud against the murdered causing deep trauma & since the sale of my murdered Father’s sahres in his name prompted the fraud bureau to ask local police to investigate- no investigations have been carreid tou since March 2018, instead it is I who have eben arrested for things proven not to have been odne; & for following a judges & police offidrs directions, there has been deliberate entrapment & one local Sgt Stephan Gibson is continually hounding & harassing me entraping me in to never -before -seen court orders when he came to my home as I was treated by ambualce. I asked hi politely to leave as witnessed & saw that he was on his won; no uper body uniform on; & came to my home in his own white van that he beeped the horn at me from going into work in March 2018. Entrapped by that I was locked in a cell again (18; 26.5; 10 & 23.5- a most violent arrest of two hours of kicking at my already smashed in door by the polcie) whilst the court case went ahead without me. Ms Mc Bride has actually printed on to the internet the very paragraph that was fraud & afforded 54 weeks of a living hell to my days widowed & grieving Father & me- a retired medical consultant he knew he would die from such continual intimdiaiton & he did- blood tropoins; witnesses & hard factual evidence of collusion over the fraud all evident. Her fraudulent ruling was that I would b allowed to keep the house if I paid my sister my life assurance & gave my brother our Father’s wooden boat. He so did not want our brother to have this knowing he would sell her. This is why our elderly parents gave him over £200000 cash & the diaries this was written in to were stolen from my Father’s shelving after he was murdered. The only diaries stolen were the years the monies had been afforded in lieu of any part of a meagre estate of an old house & old boat. My parents went freezing without money for heating oil to ensure their daughters were left secure with the family home. My sister was left in a dangerous position of being ‘hit & controlled’ by Mr Horner as if anyone else had taken this role, the fraud would not have been so easily enabled. Despite letters from our Uncle & our Father’s cousin stating they knew our Father would want me to be his executor (to help my sister from that position) these were ignored. The family Minister also offered himself as executor- this was also ignored.
    My Mother’s belongings stolen in her native Norway as she couldn’t afford to ship them home after the last of her own parents died due to her giving her money to our brother also & cried telling me she would never see them again. I immediately promised her they would be in this house. As Mr Horner ensures this doesn’t end I cannot get to Norway to either lay my Mother to rest or to deal with fraud & theft there due to Katrina Olver’s fraud in triplicate & serious professional negligence here. Our Father pleading with our brother to stop spending money as he wanted to get our Mother’s remains to Norway as she asked of him before marrying there; ”sure stick her in the Lough” was our brother’s reply to a grieving widower with tears in his eyes turning to me to state Strangford Lough is not consecrated ground; your Mother was Lutheran . A week later shortly before his murder he stood looking at his beautiful boat in the garden & said ”Please Jack stop spending money; I don’t even have the money to launch my boat”. This was so pathetic to hear from a man who had worked so hard all his life & was left in penuary without a pound coin to feed himself with as his own accountant (at school with my brother) afforded all this by collusion after my Mother’s passing as he had her will whilst my Father was told my Latrian Olver; there was no urgency & she went on holiday! I love my sister & there is nothing more I would want to do than to put my arms around her & tell her we are going to be alright & that I have enought stamina for both of us no matter what Mr Mark Horner does to us. When I video linked back in to see the court from the family court she cut me out a number of times when I tried to hold up the hand printed words but she did not help me. I believed this is a continuation of the fraud but with the videolink system now in place it makes this easier to do to me. Of course the Action Fraud hang up thier phones to me as do the City of London Polcie as neither has yet learend from teh precedents of Dr Harold Shipman; Colin Howells; Davide Garofalo; DI Daren Mc Kie & teh latest ex Constable Couzins that just because someone holds a position of trust & authority it does not mean they are Holier than Thou; it should do of course but with so many in positions as these having carried out murders when will the police & fraud bureaus learn- I have been left bullied harassed; intimidated; my blemish free name 7 reputation destroyed on court & police records (I don’t even have a parking ticket) all due to Mr Horner’s anger & vengeance but no one will believe what is happening as I am a lay member of the public & police & judges are beyond reproach to the City of London Police & the Action Fraud. On calling the Met Dame Cressida & the Honourable Priti Patel may be interested to learn; the receiver stated ”this is a hoax call” hanging up leaving me in uncontrollable tears of distress due to the fraud that was the cause of my Father & Mother’s personal suffering from so many years giving our brother over £200000 & my Father’s murder not being believed as I am a lay member of the public & they are police & judge. Incidentally the local sgt who is continually bulling me manhandled me from the station (3 witnesses) when I tried to get my sister help . When I went back subsequently I asked him if he had been the school bully (as my Father taught me that people always behave the way they do for a reason & that if you understand that reason it makes their behaviour easier to deal with. He could not understand the behaviour of his own physician; our GP both linked to the local crime; my sister (being hit & controlled over a period of years) or our brother all conducting fraud against him & me. I tried to find a common denominator to my siblings behaviour telling my Father this must be some sort of weird grief reaction to our Mother’s passing. Truth really IS stranger than fiction & this is a book & a fil one police officer told me. I hope someone out there reading this will alert Ms Patel; Mr Johnston; Ms Osofsky who I have sent papers to twice
    on the direction of a kind call handler from police Merseyside- the call handler on the SFO told me to ”write it up to the space cadets’. How can those who don’t literally see the fraud on documentation be so very cruel? also Commander Dyson who should investigate why Action Fraud & the City of London police hang up thier phones to me when I am giving them the information to call all those involved asking for documentation of proven fraud themselves! Cried to the Stormont Executive & the Justice Minister have all been in vain. Return emails stating after months of waiting that they could not get involved. I wish to thank the pa to Mrs Harriet Harman for calling me on receipt of my email for help as she spoke about the resignation of Dame Cressida & she & Lord Raab both promised the people of England they would do everything they could to stop violence against women. How shameful to those at Stormont when I have to write to those in Britain for their urgent help. I trust Her Majesty will be informed of how so many of Her Royal Courts of Justice in NI are being deliberately abused for the purpose of deliberate fraud in a murder case, orchestrated by someone who is a knight of the Realm. My late Father & Mother were so loyal to the Crown – my late Father a proud King’s Scout. My Father was host to Her Royal Highness Princess Anne on a visit to Holywell Hospital as he was Chairman of medical staff there from 1984 to 1993 when he retired after 40 years unstinting service to the health service & loses his life needlessly due to the poor budgeting of the SET; the fraud & bullying of a set of members at SLYC orchestrated my one Billy Kohnner & the fraud of his will orchestrated my one Mrs Katrina Olver. I will get this resolved, in my truly exceptional late parents’ memories; I just hope that it is not too much longer as I have had no life at all for 9 years as the trauma is very difficult to go with day to day now. Lord Alderdice who was Registrar I called for his backing in this but he believed me to be mentally unwell & hung up his phone a number of times to me & Northern Board who my Father worked for has done the same. All truth is available on documentation for the asking by any of them.

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