Online courts ‘will trigger miscarriages of justice’

Originally published in the Brief, Times Law


Online criminal courts risk creating miscarriages of justice unless there is independent judicial scrutiny, a think tank warned yesterday.


Defendants who go through criminal “online” trials will be under pressure to accept charges and sentences, the charity Centre for Justice Innovation warned in a response to the Ministry of Justice’s consultation paper “Transforming our Justice System”.


The charity said that it welcomed in principle the introduction of technology to modernise court processes and make them more accessible. However, the introduction of an online process for some simple criminal offences “must be subject to independent judicial scrutiny”.


Its response also said that an online court system must be fair and defendants must be provided with a clear understanding of the process. The centre warned that without access to legal advice, as proposed, defendants in online conviction cases would find it “even more difficult to challenge sentencing decisions”.


Calling for a national system for the scrutiny of online convictions, the centre said: “Only independent, judicial scrutiny is able to help build public confidence in the online conviction system. Any administrative or executive scrutiny, no matter how honestly and fairly administered, is liable to be perceived as biased on behalf of the state.”