Lord Chief Justice lends support to abolition of the dock
The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales has backed calls for the abolition of the dock as part of an attempt to modernise the court system.
Lord Thomas of Cwymgiedd lent his support to the new report by all-party human rights group Justice argues the dock should be removed and that defendants should be allowed to sit with their legal teams, as happens in the US.
The report states that the dock is used for security, mainly to prevent escape or violence, but that it is a “wholly disproportionate response” and that it has a “direct bearing on the fairness of the criminal trial”.
It also offends against the presumption of innocence and risks an unfair trial by stopping the defendant from effectively participating in their defence.
Lord Thomas said the dock was “terribly expensive” because of the requirement for security staff and the need for old court buildings with traditional layouts to be maintained.
Justice adds in its report that the dock has only been used since the 1970s and that they are not required by law – they are used simply because it is Ministry of Justice policy.
In lieu of the dock the report calls for special hearings to decide if extra security is needed.
John Cooper QC, a criminal barrister, said: “A complete rethink of the role of the dock in the criminal justice system is long overdue.
“It still remains the most fundamental principle of a criminal trial that an accused is innocent until proven guilty.
“Placing an accused person in what is often a glass-enclosed cage is not consistent with a defendant’s place in criminal proceedings.”