A jury has delivered its verdict before a ‘virtual’ judge appearing on screen, in what is believed to be the first time a judge has not been physically present in court to hear a verdict in a criminal case.
HH Judge John Tanzer appeared via Skype at Croydon Crown Court on Tuesday, when a teacher was acquitted of sexual offences.
Doughty Street Chambers’ Liam Walker, who represented the teacher and was instructed by Robert Dynowski, partner and head of the criminal department at Steel and Shamash, said: ‘The judge gave advance notice of possibly using technology to take a verdict remotely, and invited us to take instructions.’
The jury returned a not guilty verdict on one of the counts, for which the judge was present. ‘The judge rose and stated that he would ensure he was contactable via Skype through secure Wi-Fi,’ Walker said.
Counsel were told later that the judge was at an official commitment, and that the jury had a verdict on the remaining counts. Counsel connected to the court Wi-Fi and contacted the judge, whose image was projected on to large screens.
The jury entered court and found the defendant not guilty on the remaining counts. The judge then discharged the defendant.
‘Had there have been the need to respond to jury questions, it had been agreed that they would have been dealt with the following day with the judge there in person,’ said Walker.
‘Had the jury have come back with guilty verdicts it had been agreed that sentence would have been adjourned,’ he added.