Impact on child justice in a world of digital courts
Perspectives from the bench
Keywords:children’s rights, digital justice, digital hearing, access to justice, legal aid
The Covid-19 pandemic brought so much tragedy across the world, but as with so much necessity also became the mother of invention. The notion of a virtual trial or other court proceedings came to life during the pandemic to help courts continue to function. In this context, virtual court proceedings and trials became the norm. And, as the world grapples with emerging from this health crisis different courts are taking different paths. In order to guarantee the child’s right to justice during the pandemic and as it waned, some jurisdictions have opted to continue holding hearings in-person, while maintaining physical protection from viruses; others have decided to digitise court proceedings using technological tools. To explore this development, volunteer attorneys from Baker McKenzie and the legal department of Google came together to assist the Global Initiative on Justice With Children, by interviewing judiciary professionals around the world.
Using a single questioning tool, volunteers conducted interviews with individual judges to understand their perspectives on the use of digital hearings and the effect of their use on justice for children. We opted for the term ‘digital justice’ to describe this use of virtual technology to conduct hearings and trials in youth justice proceedings rather than conducting them in-person. This paper aims to highlight how digital justice had a significant impact on justice systems for children and youth during the pandemic, determine whether digital justice could or should become a new normal in children’s justice systems, and identify what should be the protective measures for children in a modified justice system.
This paper analyses the advantages and disadvantages of virtual hearings and the impact of them on children’s ability to effectively participate in and adequately understand the judicial processes and the seriousness of the justice outcomes. It also discusses the different jurisdictions’ approaches to requiring the presence of the child’s lawyer during the proceedings and the obstacles to children’s access to legal aid in a digital context. The interviews conducted by volunteers highlighted difficulties in ensuring a safe space for children and young people’s data and privacy, difficulties in communicating with counsel and receiving useful advice from lawyers and other participants in the proceedings, and difficulties for children to feel that they can speak up in their own proceedings.
How to Cite
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication, with the work three months after publication simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal. This acknowledgement is not automatic, it should be asked from the editors and can usually be obtained one year after its first publication in the journal.