The role of science is becoming more prominent in the current legal proceedings in Australia and many other countries across the world. According to Moriarty (48), there are various cases where criminals have been let free due to lack of evidence in court. This scholar says that it is challenging to prove charges against an individual, especially when the plaintiff is the only witness against the defendant. Courts of law are always bound by the law they interpret, and by ethics to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the defendant committed a crime, and therefore, is guilty as charged. Because of this, there are instances where criminals have walked into freedom despite having committed crimes they are charged for in the courts. These unfortunate states of affairs have affected many victims of such crimes as they consider that there is no justice in the courts. For this reason, efforts have been made to ensure that such cases are eliminated. Technology has come out as a perfect solution in fixing such problems by using CCTV camera footage. This technological invention has become very common in the current courts as it is considered to give expert witness in cases where there is insufficient witness against the accused (Fabri 34). This research will focus on the use of technology, especially the use of CCTV camera footage in courts of law as an expert witness against accused persons.
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The relevance of technology in courts of law
According to Cerrillo (24), the world is rapidly changing due to changes taking place in the field of technology. Emerging technologies have redefined various approaches to undertaking various social issues in society. The legal proceedings have not been spared either with these changes brought about by the emerging technologies. The need to give justice to those seeking it has driven various players in this field to look for ways of proving that an accused is either guilty or innocent of the charges. The solution has come with the invention of the CCTV cameras (Reiling 71). When they were first introduced, this technology was a preserve for large companies and wealthy individuals who used it as a way of boosting their security. However, this technology has become very common in homes and business premises due to its reduced prices. Courts are now accepting CCTV camera footage as part of the evidence against a crime that is presented before it. There are a number of cases where courts have fully relied on CCTV camera footage to make judgments (Arrigo 78). The discussion below gives a series of cases where decisions were made based on the CCTV camera footage presented before the courts.
Case Studies Where Technology was used in Courts
Case Study 1
Mr. Miller, a 55-year-old man who owned a dance costume business in the city of Bristol, was concerned that a particular trespasser was tossing several plastic bags containing excrement of a dog into his compound. Mr. Miller reported the matter to the police but they could not act, stating that there was no suspect in the case. The trespass continued, and so Mr. Miller decided to make a purchase of a Do-It-Yourself video surveillance kit at $ 400. He was convinced that the culprit must be a neighbor because he did a perfect timing when Mr. Miller had left the compound. He left the system to run for a month to capture the activities of the neighbor who had turned this into a habit. Video footage taken for a period of one month revealed clearly one of Mr. Miller’s neighbors regularly tossing several bags full of feces of the dog into the compound of Mr. Miller. Mr. Miller presented the video footage to the community security patrol who subsequently arrested the neighbor.
In this case, Mr. Miller had the video footage and his suspicion given the number of dogs the defendant owned in the neighborhood as the only witness. The defendant accepted the fact that the person captured on the camera was he, but denied the fact that he did this intentionally and regularly. A keen analysis of the presented video footage proved that on all the occasions, he would come to dump the feces immediately after the departure of Mr. Miller. The footage also confirmed to the court that his sole intention of coming to Mr. Miller’s yard was to damp the wastes because he would return through the same route. The mischievous smiles and the fact that he would watch his back before and after committing the offense convinced the courts that his actions were deliberate and that he was fully aware of the consequences. The court’s verdict was a fine to the defendant and he was ordered to clear all the garbage he had slung into Mr. Miller’s compound. He was further instructed to pay Mr. Miller for damages caused by his unlawful acts (Murphy D1).
Case Study 2
Another case where video surveillance was used to capture criminal deeds involved Adam Kliebert and Woody Densen. Mr. Kliebert, a 41-year-old real estate developer, was concerned that someone was scratching the back of his Range Rover with some metallic object, forcing him to make costly repairs regularly. He suspected Mr. Densen, a retired state district judge, who had the tendency of passing behind the car very regularly in their shared compound. Given the stature of Mr. Densen in this society and the respect Mr. Kliebert had for him, he did not believe that he could do such an unethical act given that he knew the consequences.
When the act did not stop, Mr. Kliebert mounted a CCTV camera in strategic positions to capture the culprit. He presented the video footage to the police who then arrested Mr. Densen. When presented before the district magistrate, Mr. Densen accepted that he was responsible for the acts he was accused of before the court. He was fined for the crime. The evidence provided to the court clearly showed how he would pass behind the car, make a deep scratch at its back, and quickly hide the metallic object. The evidence was so clear that Mr. Densen and his lawyer, Mr. Robert Pelton, could do very little to deny the charges. The court ordered Mr. Densen to pay Mr. Kliebert $ 3000 for the damage caused. The verdict was reached in April 2009 (Murphy D1).
Analysis of the Cases
The two cases presented above have a similar trend in that the jury based their decision on the expert witness presented before them in the form of video footage (Pattavina 67). The defendants, having seen how well the cameras captured their acts, were overwhelmed and could not deny the charges. The form of defense they could make was the intent of their actions. However, the video surveillance presented confirmed beyond any reasonable doubt that they were responsible for the acts. In the two cases, it is clear that the concern of the jury was to determine the individual responsible for the act, and not the intent of the act. This means that once the court was able to prove that they were guilty of the crimes against them, then they were to bear the consequences of their acts. In both cases, the culprits could not convince the courts that their acts were not malicious. In the first case, the look on the neighbor’s face and the way he would act before and after dumping, the garbage clearly showed mischief. In the second case, the speed with which Mr. Densen would scratch the car and hide the metallic object he used demonstrated that he was fully aware that he was acting illegally.
Historically, there were disputes as to the ability of video surveillance to be used in courts as part of the witness (Brownsword 80). There was a belief that such videos could be fabricated in order to accuse an individual falsely. However, with advanced technology, it has now become possible for the courts to determine the authenticity of the video footage presented before them. This has made them more acceptable in courts.
The two case studies clearly demonstrate that technology currently plays an important role in court proceedings. Video surveillance has become common in courts as a way of confirming that a given act was committed or omitted by a given individual, which makes him or her guilty as charged. Given the reduced cost of this surveillance kit, its usage in courts is perceived to be more common in the future.
Arrigo, Bruce. Introduction to Forensic Psychology: Issues and Controversies in Crime and Justice. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2005. Print.
Brownsword, Roger. Law and the Technologies of the Twenty-First Century: Text and Materials. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Print.
Cerrillo, Fabra. E-justice: Information and Communication Technologies in the Court System. Hershey: Information Science Reference, 2009. Print.
Fabri, Marco. Justice and Technology in Europe: How ICT Is Changing the Judicial Business. Boston: Kluwer Law International, 2001. Print.
Moriarty, Laura. Criminal Justice Technology in the 21st Century. Springfield: Charles Thomas, 2005. Print.
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Murphy, Kate. “Neighborhood Mischief Caught on Tape.” International New York Times 3 Nov. 2010: D1. Print.
Pattavina, April. Information Technology and the Criminal Justice System. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2005. Print.
Reiling, Dory. Technology for Justice: How Information Technology Can Support Judicial Reform. Amsterdam: Leiden University Press, 2009. Print.