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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Juries of the future may be so unaccustomed to listening to endless hours of oratory that evidence will have to be presented to them via screens and laptops, a senior judge has said.
The oral tradition is rapidly dying out in a society where people are more used to processing information in multi-media formats, according to the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, the most senior judge in England and Wales.
With technology progressing at "the most extraordinary rate ... beyond our imagining," perhaps juries would feel more at home with screens or even laptops which they could take away and sift through evidence interactively.
"I am strongly in favor of the jury system. But I look at my grandchildren: they don't learn by listening to people talking at them. They have teachers who guide them," he said.
University students are the same, he added -- they put lecturers' notes into their machines which they then use later to educate themselves.
Jury duty typically involves listening to 2-1/2 hours of presentations in the morning, an hour's lunch break and then back in the court room for just over two more hours of debate in the afternoon.
"If a generation is going to arrive in the jury box that is totally unused to sitting and listening but is using technology to gain information it needs to form a judgment, that changes the whole orality tradition with which we are familiar," Lord Judge said.
He added that the problem should be addressed now before younger generations find they simply can not cope with processing information by listening to hours of debate.
"What we don't want to have is what we sometimes do -- the acknowledgment of the crisis long after it's in existence and then efforts to plaster over it."
Acknowledging that the ability of the general public to absorb long speeches has declined, criminal barrister John Cooper told the Times newspaper that multi-media will have a place in the court rooms of the future, but can not replace presentations by lawyers altogether.
"We should be aware of how people increasingly receive information and use multi media as adjuncts and tools to help an advocate make his case in the most effective way.
"However, these should never replace the advocate's address or his or her responsibility to present the case in such a way that it will be understood and appreciated," Cooper said.
Editing by Steve Addison