High tribunal allows remote criminal trials

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THE SUPREME Court has approved the rules allowing inmates to undergo trial using video-conferencing technology, it said in a statement on Tuesday.

The guidelines, which allow an accused criminal to remotely testify in court, seek to prevent security and health risks posed by some inmates, according to the high court.

“This will also guarantee the accused’s rights to be present and confront witnesses against them and to ensure the continuity of proceedings in criminal cases,” the court said.

“The dignity and solemnity in a videoconference proceeding shall be the same as those of an in-court proceeding,” it said. “The remote location shall be viewed as an extension of the courtroom.”

The practice will be tested for two years at jails in Davao City, Bicutan in Taguig and at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.

Under the rules, the high court may suspend a remote trial if a technical issue may affect fairness, or when an inmate’s presence in the courtroom is needed.

The tribunal in 2001 allowed family courts to use video-conferencing equipment during trials that involve testimonies of children. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas