Report on pre-recorded evidence finds little impact on jury decisions

Evidence on the impact upon juror decision-making of the use of pre-recorded evidence and/or live-link testimony by child and vulnerable adult witnesses in criminal trials across a range of legal jurisdictions has been summarised in a paper published today.

The report draws on international evidence from simulated or ‘mock’ jury experiments which are the de facto method for studying jury decision making. The report finds that there is no compelling evidence that the use of pre-recorded evidence or live-links, whether by child or adult witnesses, has an effect on verdict outcomes in (mock) criminal trials.

In respect of child witnesses, individual jurors may harbour a preference for evidence delivered live and in person. However, the evidence suggests that this preference does not translate in any consistent or reliable way into (mock) juror verdict outcomes.

The reports states that in respect of adult witnesses, the evidence base is more limited, but a number of studies indicate that the use of pre-recorded evidence or live-links by adult female rape complainers does not significantly influence (mock) jurors’ evaluations and verdicts. The position in respect of adults in other trials is less clear, and requires further investigation, but there is not as yet compelling evidence of a verdict impact on (mock) jury decision making.

The report highlights a number of operational factors which may influence jurors such as the length and format of forensic interviews, audio and visual quality of evidence, and camera perspective, which, it is suggested, should be considered when using pre-recorded evidence to avoid undue influence upon jurors.