The dock on trial: Courtroom design and the presumption of innocence

Meredith Rossner, David Tait, Blake McKimmie, Rick Sarre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This article examines the place of the criminal dock in courtroom design. Challenges to the use of the dock have been based upon the inability of the defendants to hear effectively, to communicate with counsel, to maintain their dignity, and to benefit from the presumption of innocence. Increasingly courts are incorporating secure docks, where defendants are partially or completely surrounded by glass (or in some countries, metal bars). To what extent do these changes and modifications undermine the right to the presumption of innocence? We present the results of an experimental mock jury study that was designed to test whether the placement of the accused influences jurors’ perceptions. We find that jurors are more likely to convict defendants when they are located in a traditional dock or a secure dock, compared to sitting next to their counsel at the bar table. We conclude by discussing the implications for trial procedures, counsel communications, and courtroom design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-344
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Law and Society
Volume44
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017
Externally publishedYes

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