COVID-19 and Remote Hearings
Updated: Jun 17, 2020
The recent Coronavirus epidemic has affected wide reaching aspects of both private and commercial lives, not least of all, the legal sector and how courts and tribunals in particular can adapt to the challenges posed by the Covid-10 crisis and the announcement from the Lord Chief Justice that hearings would be held remotely where possible. There is also the distinct possibility that post lockdown, online court hearings could become the new normal.
How can you conduct a remote court hearing?
There have been no prescribed or obligated methods set for remote court hearings, although it seems most courts set a preference for Skype for Business as it has shown better security. Other methods that can be used include been BT conference call, court video links, BT MeetMe, Zoom, FaceTime and even ordinary telephone calls are all permitted. However, not all cases will be allowed to go ahead as highlighted in a recent adoption case involving six children between the ages of three and seventeen which cannot go ahead remotely because the father did not feel competent at using technology.
‘In this ruling, the Court of Appeal has stressed the extreme difficulties currently facing judges. They must assess whether remote hearings are suitable when making vitally important decisions that can profoundly affect a child’s life and future.’
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Similar to how remote hearings and trials have been supported by technology, disputing parties can also continue to explore ADR in the form of remote mediation or settlement meetings. In the same way that security should be considered at remote court hearings, it will be necessary to ensure conversations with clients are kept secure and private.
Whilst the lockdown measures have started to ease, there is still some uncertainty surrounding when we will get back to ‘pre’ lockdown normality. However, the justice system must continue to operate and the courts are still accepting new applications across a number of legal matters. It is likely that social distancing measures will be around for some time and that remote court hearings could become a permanent option. Regardless of the complexity of your case, we can provide the expert advice and guidance you need on a wide range of legal issues, for both private and commercial clients, and can guide you through the process of bringing a claim to the court or entering in to dispute resolution. Find out more about our full range of services here.
Please note that this article is meant as general guidance and not intended as legal or professional advice. Updates to the law may have changed since this article was published