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Professor David Tait, University of Western Sydney


This article examines legal debates about one important design question – where and how to seat the accused. It tells how courts, spurred on by assertive defence lawyers, fought back to protect the rights of the accused and have provided a more dignified court setting. The abandonment of a glass-framed enclosure, in particular, raised legal issues in the United States. These issues have reappeared in the European and Australia debates.


The article contains the following:

Part I

  • Provides background to the development of the dock in courtrooms from 1300 to 1850
  • Reviews US experience of abolishing the dock, outlining the court decisions that enabled and reinforced this change.

Part II

  • Reviews the development of the glass-enclosed security dock
  • Examines and the way this was handled in two appeal court processes – European Court of Human Rights and Queensland Court of Appeal and the Australian High Court.

Part III

  • Looks at how two trial courts in Australian terrorism trials dealt with applications to remove the glass from the dock.

Part IV

  • Draws together the lessons from these case studies
  • Develops recommendations about how court design can better reflect fundamental legal values.

From: Glass Cages in the Dock: Presenting the Defendant to the Jury, Chicago-Kent Law Review, 86:2, 2011

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