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This Nudge Was Not Enough: A Randomised Trial of Text Message Reminders of Court Dates to Victims and Witnesses

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Barnes, GC 
Cumberbatch, Jonathan R 


Research Question Do text messages to mobile phones of victims and witnesses two or three days before they are scheduled to appear in court reduce their nonappearance rates in minor criminal cases? Data A sample of 811 victims and witnesses sent a postal notice to attend a specific Magistrates’ court in Staffordshire on a specific date. Cambridge Crime Harm Index value of the criminal charges, court appearance and trial outcome data were collected in all cases. Methods A text message reminder was randomly assigned to be sent to 405 treatment cases 2-3 days before the court trial date. Treatment as delivered comprised 84% of the treatment group. Findings The base rate of victims and witnesses’ not attending magistrates’ trials prior to the RCT was 26%. The non-attendance rate during the RCT was 22% in the control group 24% in the treatment group (p = 0.444). A 14% higher guilty rate for trials attended by the treatment group (58%) than the control group (51%) was marginally significant (p = 0.052). No treatment-control differences in attendance were found when moderated by crime type or CHI score. Conclusion A text message in isolation did not significantly affect victim and witness attendance at criminal cases in the three Magistrates’ Courts. However, it does show that texting is a reliable, quick and cheap method of communicating with witnesses.



48 Law and Legal Studies, 4805 Legal Systems, 4402 Criminology, 44 Human Society, Clinical Research, Clinical Trials and Supportive Activities, Mental health, 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

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Cambridge Journal of Evidence-Based Policing

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Springer International Publishing