A trial by jury could be taken to a whole new level as a new project plans to use virtual reality technology to allow jurors to tour “crime scenes.”
Said to be the first project of its kind in Europe, the virtual reality project is being tested by Staffordshire University in England, and the idea is something police say could become very significant.
The concept – currently being tested using the latest in virtual reality headsets, green screens, and technology taken from gaming, engineering and computing – aims to virtually “transport” jurors to crime scenes.
— Daily Mirror (@DailyMirror) May 24, 2016
Reportedly, the university was given a £140,000 ($205,000) grant by the European Commission and on top of virtual reality, experts are also experimenting with laser scanning and drones in order to revolutionize the way crime scenes are recorded.
Associate Professor of Forensics, Dr. Caroline Sturdy Colls, told BBC News that “What we want to do is to come up with the best solution that helps the criminal justice system — help the police in their detection and recording of crime and then to help jurors in court to understand those crimes better that they ever did before.”
Simon Tweats of the Staffordshire Police told the BBC that the technology could make significant strides in “bringing to life” complex scenes and the display of evidence in court.
“Doing that in a way that is far easier for juries to understand and appreciate – which can only be be good for everybody, for prosecution and defense.”
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Sian Grzeszczyk, a BBC Staffordshire reporter tried out the technology and she said in one of the scenarios she could walk around the “crime scene” and it feels incredibly real, even though she knows it’s not.
According to Grzeszczyk, if a barrister could use the virtual reality system, 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.”
According to a report by the Mirror Online, the police say that while the virtual reality headsets might look costly, they are actually reasonably affordable at £700 (just over $1,000) a set.
However, some people are skeptical about the project, questioning whether it can make any impact on a case, as other technologies have reportedly caused problems in the past.
— Virtually Radical (@virtualradical) May 24, 2016
According to Jason Holt, a barrister at Steven Solicitors, they have recently gone on to a digital system within the Crown Court, which is causing significant delays. Holt said the systems they are using tend to break down and that the technology isn’t sufficient for their needs. According to him, they then have to go back to pen and paper.
“It’s causing delays in court, in my own experience.”
However, according to the U.K.’s Ministry of Justice, making the most of new technology can only make justice more accessible, by cutting costs for litigants and removing unnecessary court hearings.