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The Digital Criminal Justice Project: Vulnerability and the Digital Subject

The impact of digital technology on the criminal justice system
Digital technologies are rapidly transforming the criminal justice system, with audio-visual links and 3rd party video communication platforms replacing physical presence in courtrooms and direct human communication. But are these technologies delivering fair criminal justice?

Physical presence in many courtrooms around the world was effectively banned in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Audio-visual links and third-party video communication platforms became critical courtroom infrastructure, enabling remote or virtual hearings. These widespread changes to the administration of justice occurred before all the risks from digitalising courts were considered.

Led by Dr Carolyn McKay, this Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) project will evaluate the impact of digital audio-visual communication technologies on fair and inclusive justice for vulnerable users of criminal courts. It aims to investigate use of these technologies from the perspective of judges and lawyers.

The project will consider what vulnerability is in the digital criminal justice system and aims to develop recommendations for inclusive justice and strategies to better protect the vulnerable under digital justice.

Dr Carolyn McKay

Carolyn McKay
Senior Research Fellow, Co-Director, Sydney Institute of Criminology
Dr McKay's academic profile

This project is funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) 2021, Grant ID: DE210100586.

Banner image: Photo by Guillaume Bourdages on Unsplash.

Research questions to be addressed:


What is vulnerability in digital society; and how is vulnerability currently understood, assessed, identified and managed in the digital criminal justice system?


How do digital communication technologies assist or challenge the administration of justice when vulnerable individuals are involved; and what mechanisms could be introduced to oversee the effective participation of vulnerable individuals and ensure inclusive justice?