There are numerous advantages to videoconferencing, primarily having access to a victim or witness who would otherwise be unavailable for a multitude of reasons: transportation costs, jurisdictional issues, a multitude of delays, and so on and so forth. In recent years, there has been a shift towards more accessible justice, and cybjerjustice, which includes videoconferencing, is one of the main reforms made to our justice system.
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Judicial proceedings, for the longest time, have been known for their lengthy delays and exorbitant costs. Videoconferencing allows certain judicial proceedings without the need for courtroom participants to displace themselves, this reduces the costs of travel, and reduces delays associated with the maintenance of classical justice procedures .
In 2001, the Ontario Supreme Court accepted that 20 American witnesses be permitted to testify via videoconference as it reduces costs of litigation and possible delays, while giving the judge and jury the opportunity to have a better understanding of the case rather than if the witnesses simply did not appear . More cases can be conducted in a shorter amount of time and delays are reduced for multiple reasons, including the fact that less judges have to deal with travel time in large districts as well as the reduction of the inconvenience that lawyers and witnesses have to deal with to appear in court.
Moreover, videoconference testimonies have a positive impact on court costs. Judicial proceedings can be costly enough, in terms of lawyer fees alone, consequently videoconferencing can bring a significant cost reduction to court hearings. In R. v. Heynen, a pioneer case where a witness was granted to participate via a remote testimony, the court emphasized that using video technology can significantly save court costs: “The court noted that video and audio services should be used as much as possible to minimize outlying communities’ financial hurdles in accessing courts”
Research has indicated that most middle-income Canadians struggle with acquiring the services of a lawyer due to the remarkably high legal fees and the inaccessibility of legal aid across the county, this is a harsh reality that the country faces, and unfortunately this reality is augmented for people of color and those who belong to marginalized groups . For these prevailing reasons, videoconference testimony is seen to many as a step in the right direction towards making justice more accessible. It is not an answer to all procedural problems of the justice system, however for some it is an easy and readily available solution to a variety of dilemmas.
Our current and modernizing judicial system has made a significant effort in recognizing the special needs and psychological realities of certain victims and witnesses, and of those, the most vulnerable: children. Cyberjustice, and more specifically remote video testimony gives the opportunity for a fair hearing, without the trauma, with the ability for cross examination from a secure and less intimidating location.
Bill C-15, an Act to amend the Criminal Code contains multiple amendments, including protecting vulnerable complainants in the criminal court with the use of live video testimony. Bill C-15 put forth a number of special measures where a judge has the discretion to, in certain situations of alleged sexual offenses against children, respond to concerns of their distress due to the usual courtroom process. Section 715.1 of the Criminal Code is a clear portrayal of an amendment that Bill C-15 set forth.
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