143.1 Visual techniques in the Dutch criminal justice system

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 12:30 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Gabry VANDERVEEN , Faculty of Law, Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands
The development of technical devices, specific software and new media has resulted in the omnipresence of the visual, in daily life as well as in the courtroom. Photographs and X-rays have been introduced in the criminal justice system and now videotaped confessions or testimonies, computer animations and simulations find their way. In court, visuals are used as powerful rhetorical tools, both by the public prosecutor and by the defense. This development can be seen in the USA, UK and in the Netherlands alike. Most empirical research on the consequences of visuals compared to textual (or verbal) descriptions with respect to recollection, emotional affect, standards of proof and rates of condemnation has been done mainly in the USA and UK.

However, the criminal justice system in the Netherlands is very different from the system in common law countries: it is more inquisitorial in nature. Cross-examination is unknown: the judge asks questions during the trial and has an active truth-finding role. Jurors are not used, but only professional judges. Also, Dutch criminal proceedings are characterized by their written nature; the dossier consists of all documents from the police, experts and the defense. Recent developments, such as the digitalization of the dossier, enable adding (more) visuals, which in turn can be looked at by the judge, defense and prosecutor simultaneously during trial. These developments may change the character of the Dutch criminal justice system revolutionarily.

This paper gives an overview of the state of affairs on the production, contents and use of visuals in the Dutch criminal justice system. Furthermore, the implications of the increase of visual techniques and material in the communication and decision making process in Dutch criminal courts is discussed.