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Juries of the future could be ‘transported’ to crime scenes using virtual reality headsets

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Staffordshire University-led research hopes to revolutionise the way lawyers present criminal cases in court

virtual reality

Virtual reality headsets look set to make their criminal court system debut, thanks to a pioneering tech project at Staffordshire University.

In stark contrast to the reams of paper and blurry CCTV images that have become associated with criminal trials, future jurors could be asked to wear headsets — like those used in the gaming industry — that “transport” them to virtual crime scenes.

This has immense potential to shake up the criminal justice system, particularly the way lawyers present their cases to jury members. Dr Caroline Sturdy Colls, an associate professor at Staffordshire University, hopes the headsets will “help jurors in court to understand those crimes better that they ever did before.”

Speaking to Legal Cheek, she added:

Traditional means of documenting, sketching and photographing crime scenes can be laborious and they don’t provide data suitable for presentation in court to non-experts. A number of novel, digital, non-invasive methods used in archaeology, computing and games design present the opportunity to increase search efficiency and accuracy and provide more effective means of presenting evidence in court.

The project — backed by a European Commission research grant amounting to £140,000 — is ground-breaking and, according to Colls, the first project of its kind on the continent.

It is, however, only one of many emerging and future technological developments changing the landscape of legal practice and education. The emergence of FinTech — the new, techy-driven way of providing financial services — is being hailed as a hot new practice area for young lawyers. There’s plans for new, lawyer free courts that run totally online, a bit like eBay’s dispute resolution system, and talk of computer games to teach litigants-in-person the do’s and don’ts of courtroom etiquette.

No corner of the legal profession appears to be free from the growing stronghold of technology, and now it’s the criminal justice system’s turn to have its own tech makeover.

Or is it?

Well, initial feedback about the project is certainly promising. One reporter who had a go at wearing the headset herself described the virtual experience as “incredibly real”. She explained:

If a barrister could do this, he or she could easily show the jury the scene of the crime without any confusion. It’s so detailed. It’s not like putting on some 3D glasses — this is another level.

Plus, at a cost of £700 per headset, the tech has been described by Staffordshire Police as affordable — and peanuts compared to the costs involved in transporting juries the old-fashioned way to a crime scene and providing them with a guided tour.

The criminal justice system is, however, characteristically slow, traditional and resistant to change, so it remains to be seen when — or if — we will see gaming-esque headsets in our local Crown Courts in the future.

17 Comments

Anonymous

Just no

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Anonymous

You must be fantastic at debating

(4)(0)

Anonymous

I am

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Gus the Naughty Boy

Yes, en masse!

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Anonymous

Cool.

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Not Amused

Good. This will further combat dishonesty in the police.

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Trumpenkrieg

The European Commission is taking our money to give to Staffordshire University to create a solution for a non-existent problem, which will result in even more expense to the public in an area that is already underfunded (criminal justice).

As Richard Littlejohn would say, you couldn’t make it up.

I just walked past Computer Exchange and saw VR headsets going for £100, so in what conceivable way is £700 a piece considered a good deal?

And all that before you factor in the costs of implementation and maintenance, which in this country, with its rich recent history of expensive and poorly implemented public sector IT projects, is likely to be in the tens of £millions.

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Anonymous

Lets all riot because 0.000119% of the EU commitments budget was spent on something arguably silly (but probably ultimately useful).

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Anonymous

The £100 headset you saw is a google cardboard build which requires a smartphone to be effective. It’s not a real headset. £700 is the current cost of a proper VR headset.

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Trumpenkrieg

By the time this “blue sky thinking outside the box” nonsense makes it into courtrooms, the price will be down to about £100 a piece. Except by the time consultants, middlemen, David Cameron’s PPP investment banking mates and others get their parasitic proboscises into the pie, the price will be back up to £700 a pop.

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chris hilliard

It won’t. The cost of the screen, processing requirements, lenses, etc, are not going to fall to that extent any time in the near future.

The screens have to be very dense resolution wise, which is expensive. It’s not going to get cheaper any time soon, as we’ll just get better screens instead (I, for example, have a Samsung Note and their first VR headset – the pixels are very noticeable).

Good lenses are important to the experiance, and are expensive and time consuming to make.

The processing requirements for rendering two high res images, at 60fps is also non-trivial, and at the moment means throwing £300+ at a graphics card – you can’t just pick up a laptop at PC World and hope it works.

However, you were right on one thing – this is unlikely to ever happen. We are still running decrepid systems in our run-down courts. We can’t afford to, for example, have all court trials automatically transcribed for the jury to have access to, or for juries to have large bundles of evidence available digitally on tablets (which would save entire forests worth of printing fairly rapidly).

While we refuse point blank to upgrade anything in the courts, this is little more than a pipe dream, or maybe somthing for a highly paid defense lawyer to pull out as a shiny toy to entertain the jury.

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baby bazzah

What’s wrong with a good old fashioned picture of a crime scene?

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Anonymous

Imagine being virtually transported to the crime scene in R v Brown…gross.

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Trumpenkrieg

It is the Current Year and you are still uncomfortable with gay men driving nails through one another’s penises? Wow just wow, educate yourself you ignorant bigot. I literally can’t even.

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Anonymous

Good job, you social justice warrior. You’ve sure checked my heteronormative male privilege. Best post about it on your tumblr account.

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Mr Brown

We’ve come a long way since I was prosecuted.

Whipping other poofs with stinging nettles and incising scrota with scalpels is mainstream now!

I was labelled as some kind of pervert at the time. How times change!

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Trumpenkrieg

I know, right? Gay men torturing each other’s genitalia with wire and nails and smearing each other with blood is *literally* morally indistinguishable from missionary sex between heterosexual married couples trying to have a baby and anyone that thinks otherwise is a hate-filled, Holocaust denying homophobe.

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