A Human Rights watchdog in the United Kingdom has claimed that conducting judicial proceedings through remote video conferencing is not very inclusive of persons with disabilities.
In its interim report titled 'Inclusive Justice: A System Designed For All', the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has noted that opportunities to identify impairments and make adjustments are lost or reduced when a defendant appears in court by video-link rather than in person.
After taking views of multiple criminal law professionals who have been part of such remotely held proceedings, the report observes:
'the 'human element' is missing from these interactions and that trust and rapport are harder to build up. They (criminal law professionals) underlined that both people and behaviours can be easily misunderstood over remote technology.'
Such impairments, the report suggests, are aggravated by technological glitches such as poor quality links, - poor sound and image quality, poor network connection, etc.
The information collected from multiple interviews suggests that the technology in magistrates' courts can be particularly bad. This can mean that hearings or consultations (between defendants and defence solicitors or advocates) can't go ahead, or are delayed.
The report highlights that due to the outbreak of COVID19 pandemic, government and courts have prioritised the use of video conferencing for judicial proceedings. However, due to the urgency of the situation created by the pandemic, use of video hearings has been increased even though the up to date video technology has not yet been installed.
In light of the present infrastructure, the report has given the following suggestions for making the use of technology more inclusive of persons with disabilities:
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