Juries of the future may tour crime scenes in virtual reality
A University in England is working with law enforcement to experiment with the possibilities of letting the juries of the future use VR to tour crime scenes.
A group of researchers working out of Staffordshire University in England is experimenting with the possibility of bringing virtual reality into the courtroom in order to allow juries to see and even tour crime scenes firsthand. And it’s thanks in part to gaming.
The team behind the experiment looked to the gaming industry for the necessary hardware. The European Commission granted the team 140,000 (roughly $206,000). Of that, they purchased several commercial VR headsets for around $700 each. According to local law enforcement, that cost is well within its budget if this experiment catches on.
“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,” said Associate Prof of Forensics, Dr. Caroline Sturdy Colls.
The study is the first of its kind, but it could become the standard procedure in courts.
It would begin with crime scene investigators recording the scene using 3D cameras. During a trial, jurors would then be given a tour of the scene, with prosecutors and/or defenders explaining what the jury was seeing. In theory, it would be a logical use of the technology and a way to better inform the jury. There is already a fair amount of skepticism though.
“We don’t have a very good track record with bringing technology into court rooms,” said English barrister Jason Holt. “We’ve recently gone on to a digital system within the Crown court and it’s causing significant delays; the systems we’re using break down, the technology isn’t sufficient and we go back to pen and paper. It’s causing delays in court, in my own experience.”
Holt does have a point. It’s easy to look at the technology and see its potential, and it may even work exceptionally well when it’s tested in a controlled environment with a team of researchers nearby. The first time there is a glitch in one of the headsets though, it could cause countless delays. Imagine tech support mixed with an overworked bureaucracy and you begin to understand the horror show.
And then there’s the introduction of new technology as a matter of legal precedent.
Typically, when law enforcement introduces new technology, no matter how incidental, there will be legal challenges. The first time a prosecutor uses it to make their case, there will be challenges from the defense (unless it favors the defense, and then the prosecutors will probably object). As soon as a headset fails, there may be an appeal and it will be a focal point.
Still, it’s an interesting idea and a clever way to use new technology. In theory, at least.