Besides its presumed prejudicial effect on juries' perception of defendants, secure docks such as the one pictured below are often criticised for inhibiting defendants' ability to communicate with their lawyer - both because the glass muffles sound and because they position the defendant such that his lawyer cannot see him gesture at her and he cannot tap her on the shoulder to get her attention.

Picture of the dock at Grimsby Crown Court, from The Grimsby Telegraph

The charity Justice, for instance, says:

The positioning and fortification of the dock in England and Wales makes it very difficult for the defendant to communicate with their lawyer during the trial proceedings. Every legal practitioner in the criminal courts is familiar with the efforts of defendants to communicate from behind the glass at the back of the courtroom. The defendant in the secure dock can only communicate by passing notes via security officers in the dock, knocking on the glass, or gesticulating in an attempt to grasp the attention of their lawyer.

It occurs to me that an obvious solution to this - or, at least, a mitigation - would be for the defendant and his lawyer to each wear a walkie talkie headset so that the defendant can speak into his lawyer's ear during the trial. If I were ever to find myself on trial for a crime and likely to be held in a secure dock, I would surely ask my lawyer if we could do this! Yet I've never heard this idea mentioned by people commenting on the problem; the passage from Justice that I quote above, for instance, doesn't contemplate this tactic.

Is there any law that would prevent defendants and defence counsel from turning up to court equipped with such headsets? (I considered that the prohibition on "recording" sound in court from Section 9 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 might apply, but I figure that merely reproducing sound without publishing it or storing a record surely must not be covered - otherwise a deaf person entering a court equipped with hearing aids would be a criminal offence!) Alternatively, has it ever been established that it is legal - or has it at least been done in the past without its legality being challenged?

  • A simpler solution might be for the defendant to have a bell push that lights a lamp to alert the lawyer.
    – TripeHound
    Commented Feb 8 at 19:17
  • @TripeHound is it really simpler? You can buy walkie talkie headsets online for a tenner; I wouldn't know how to go about setting up a button to remotely control a battery-powered light.
    – Mark Amery
    Commented Feb 8 at 19:39
  • A pair of wires works very well! Or a wireless doorbell-type gadget.
    – TripeHound
    Commented Feb 8 at 19:47

1 Answer 1


Treat the illness not the symptom

We could just not have the dock.

Also, Reassess the dock, one more, etc.

  • 2
    I downvoted because this doesn't answer the question. The question is whether or not it is legal to communicate via an earpiece, not whether the current dock setup is a good idea (which wouldn't be a legal question anyway). If a defendant wants to communicate more easily with their lawyer, they aren't going to get very far by arguing with the judge that they think the dock should be removed.
    – JBentley
    Commented Feb 9 at 11:51

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