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How has Zoom impacted the Criminal Justice System?

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Joseph A. Neuberger

Neuberger & Partners LLP

Criminal Lawyers Toronto

Sexual Assault Lawyers Brampton

 

When the pandemic hit, the criminal justice system was catapulted into the age of technology. Great advancement was made in accessing disclosure and streamlining access to justice. In addition, it made the practice of criminal law more efficient. This is good for clients and lawyers. What was most transformative is the Zoom trial. At first, I was skeptical about losing the human element of an in-person trial.  Especially in domestic assault trials, sexual assault trials and search warrant cases where often cross-examination is the most critical part of the trial.

However, after eight complicated sexual assault trials and five equally complex domestic assault trials since March of 2020, I have seen that very little is lost in the ability to cross-examine.  In particular, in jurisdictions like Brampton, Newmarket and Toronto, the courts very quickly granted access to remote proceedings and Zoom has been used very effectively.  Most significant is that trial judges are able to have an immediate and unobstructed view of the witnesses; complainants and the client when testifying.  We have had our clients attend our office to operate out of one of our two boardrooms and set it up in such a way that the client is very clearly observed by the trial judge. Amazingly, each client has advised as to how more at ease they were when giving evidence.  This is partly due to the comfort and security of testifying from the Criminal Defence lawyer’s office, but also with the removal of the often-intimidating trappings of the courtroom.  This does not mean that the clients or witnesses have not taken the proceedings seriously. To the contrary, the solemnity of the proceedings has remained intact. But at a time of crushing caseloads on the Courts, the Zoom trial has been an effective mechanism for access to justice and to have fair, efficient and just trials. It remains my view that cross-examination has been as robust in Zoom trials as when at Court.

If considering a Zoom trial, there is a lot to consider, but there are significant advantages that must be reviewed when making the decision.

For the trials we have conducted, in particular, sexual assault case in Brampton and Newmarket, there has been a great benefit to moving cases forward.

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