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End of the dock as we know it

The use of the dock in court has been questioned by campaigners seeking to implement alternative methods of trying a defendant, says Matthew Reynolds

8 December 2015

JUSTICE, the all-party law reform and human rights organisation, has called for the dock to be abolished, submitting that a defendant’s right to a fair trial is infringed.

The word ‘dock’ as it pertains to a courtroom, came into usage in this country in rogues and beggars slang in the early 1500s. It most likely found its origins in the Flemish word, ‘dok’. A dok was a cage or pen for animals. The etymology, then, may tell us all we need ?to know about the negative implications of the dock on ?the fairness of criminal proceedings.

As a criminal defence lawyer ?I am well accustomed to the layout of the criminal court, ?but have not previously ?given much thought to the defendant’s positioning and how the physical presence of ?a dock may influence our subconscious.

Nonetheless, a growing body of academic research demonstrates that the use ?of the dock impacts on fairness in the criminal trial and is disproportionate to any pe...

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