Last week the BBC reported on French court dog Lol, a five-year-old Labrador who provides support to victims in court. Lawyers across the channel thought it was a brilliant idea, as did former Victims’ Commissioner Baroness Newlove, who highlighted the work of Justice Support Dogs International Lab (JSDI), which promotes the use of professionally trained facility dogs in the UK criminal justice system.
According to JSDI’s website, facility dogs have been helping vulnerable people participate in stressful legal proceedings across north America since 2004. There are now around 300 dogs working across 40 states and provinces in the US and Canada. JSDI’s mission is to build an evidence base so that the use of justice facility dogs begins to grow worldwide.
JDSI’s Twitter account has photos of Oliver, Europe’s first justice facility dog, who has been helping the lab’s researchers fill in knowledge gaps relating to the use of facility dogs in the legal setting. Oliver is also an award winner, having won ‘assistance animal of the year’ at the Animal Star Awards 2020.
Perhaps lord chancellor Robert Buckland – who found himself in the doghouse last week after telling the BBC that the criminal justice system isn’t close to breaking point – could look into the idea of more canine companions in court?