David Tait


The architecture of the courtroom provides insights into the philosophy of justice espoused by the community—it embodies particular perspectives about the presumption of innocence, the dignity of the person, the right to effective representation, and more generally, the right to a fair trial. The physical position of the accused in a criminal trial, the subject of this Article, varies considerably between jurisdictions, from a privileged place at the defense table to a dock isolated from other courtroom participants. The legal issues associated with the place of the accused are particularly evident when the dock is enclosed in glass. This Article reviews the history of the dock, exploring why it was abolished in the U.S. but not elsewhere, and how the glass cage emerged in several countries to manage particularly unruly or dangerous defendants in the courtroom. The role of appeal and trial courts in resisting such moves is outlined, with U.S., European, and Australian courts contributing to an emerging consensus that finds highly visible forms of constraint to be prejudicial to the rights of the accused.