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DigiRights Newsletter No. 3

Dear all,

Welcome to another DigiRights project newsletter. This one comes a little later than expected, as we have all been busy conducting the empirical research for our national reports. The empirical research is proving both interesting and insightful, with each of us learning much about the actual (i.e. in practice) use of digital technologies in criminal proceedings. The most surprising finding so far appears to be the reluctance by many practitioners—across many of our jurisdictions—to embrace digital technologies, despite their apparently (and comparatively) widespread use during the COVID-19 pandemic. The practitioners’ concerns stem, at least in part, from fears that the “virtual” version of (for example) a trial hearing, as carried out via videoconferencing software, reduces the potential protections offered by defence rights—which are largely imagined as applying (only) to in-person proceedings. Given the scope of this project, these initial findings are exciting for us.

Equally exciting, but for different reasons, was our second in-person project meeting, which took place October 12–13th, and in which we were hosted by our wonderful colleagues from the University of Zagreb. While meeting online proves a useful, convenient and sustainable way to engage with each other, these periodic in-person meetings continue to prove that (at least) some in-person engagement is an important aspect of any consortium project. Over another busy but fruitful 1.5 days, each partner shared their initial empirical research findings with the others, before we hosted two external roundtables on the Friday afternoon.

The roundtable events were intended as a means by which we could share more of our research with each other, as well as with those outside of the project who might be interested; taking place in Zagreb, furthermore, allowed us to involve local Croatian practitioners, who kindly offered their time to share their experiences with us. Roundtable I, on ‘Automatic Transcription of Proceedings and the Principle of Orality’ featured presentations from the Croatian and German DigiRights partners, as well as contributions from Ivana Bilušić, judge at the County Court in Velika Gorica, and two of our steering committee members, Carsten Momsen and Lorena Bachmaier Winter. Roundtable II, on ‘Videoconferencing and Principles of Criminal Law’ featured presentations from our partners in Belgium, Luxembourg, Hungary and Italy, as well as a contribution from local Zagreb attorney Lidija Horvat. All in all, it was an incredibly interesting afternoon—and thanks are due again to our Croatian partners Elizabeta, Zoran and Marin for their organisation.

The Zagreb meeting was followed up by a “debrief” meeting 10 days later, during which the template for the national reports was finalised, and the next steps for the project were laid out and discussed. The latter including, of course, our next in-person meeting at the University of Göttingen in March 2024, which we all look forward to.

For now, it is back to the empirical research.

Until next time,

The DigiRights Project Team

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