Research from the School of Law and Social Justice informs European Union debate on video conferencing in criminal proceedings

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Research from University of Liverpool’s Professor Valsamis Mitsilegas, Dean of the School of Law and Social Justice has informed debate in reference to the use of videoconferencing in criminal proceedings.

The digitalisation of the justice system, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to many countries using videoconferencing in criminal proceedings to keep the legal process going whilst protecting public health. However, this has raised questions surrounding the rights of defendants, primarily their right to be physically present at their trial.

In the EU, there is a law called Directive (EU) 2016/343 that says suspects and accused persons have the right to be present at their trial, which is important for a fair trial. But some courts within the EU have allowed defendants to participate in their trial via videoconference, even though their country’s laws do not specifically allow it.

This raises a legal question about whether this is acceptable under EU law.

Professor Valsamis Mitsilegas’ research was cited in the discussion, referencing his work on ‘Criminal Justice, Fundamental Rights, and the Rule of Law in the Digital Age’, co-authored with colleagues at the Centre for European Policy Studies. The research, which explores the issue of national diversity in deciding whether to provide for the possibility of remote participation in criminal trials, was cited by CJEU Advocate General, Laila Medina, in Case C-760/22 which was delivered on 18 April 2024.

This marks the seventh occasion this year in which Professor Mitsilegas’ research has been highlighted in Opinions by Advocate Generals of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The outcomes of this Opinion found that EU law does not specify regulations for using videoconferencing in trials, therefore it’s use should be determined on a country-by-country basis. The result of this means that if a country allows defendants to join via videoconference, which can be through the express request of the defendant, even if it is not explicitly stated in their laws it is not necessarily against EU law.


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