Does the Placement of the Accused at Court Undermine the Right to a Fair Trial?

4 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2016 Last revised: 17 Jan 2017

See all articles by Meredith Rossner

Meredith Rossner

London School of Economics - Law School

Date Written: December 18, 2016


The UK Government has recently launched an ambitious reform of the court estate across England and Wales, including the closure of 86 courts and signi cant investment in new technologies. The time is right to rethink how courts of the future should look, with an emphasis on exibility of space and the use of technology.

A longstanding architectural feature of criminal courts is the dock, where the accused is held during a trial. In recent years, this has evolved to include a fully-glassed in box, or in some countries, metal cages. The continued use of docks may undermine the rights of the accused, including the right to participate in one’s trial, the right to be presumed innocent, and the right to be treated in a digni ed manner. I present the results of an experiment testing whether the placement of the accused in a dock can impact on mock-jurors assessment of guilt. Jurors were more likely to return a guilty verdict when the accused was in a dock, compared to sitting at the bar table with counsel, independent of the evidence against him. If the government is serious about creating fairer and more effective courts of the future, then they need discontinue the use of docks in criminal trials.

Keywords: Court architecture, criminal trial, human rights

JEL Classification: K41, K10, K4

Suggested Citation

Rossner, Meredith, Does the Placement of the Accused at Court Undermine the Right to a Fair Trial? (December 18, 2016). LSE Law - Policy Briefing Paper No. 18, Available at SSRN:

Meredith Rossner (Contact Author)

London School of Economics - Law School ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

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