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video court hearings here to stay

Court video hearings – here to stay

Over the last 12 to 18 months I have participated in more hearings by video link than ever before and I think this will become a feature of court life for a long time to come.

Such hearings are often called ‘remote hearings’, but the technology is good and there is no sense of being remote or detached. Everyone in the court system has got used to them. At first I was concerned they might not be as effective and that something would be lost through the absence of personal contact and looking people in the eye as you speak, but it hasn’t proved to be so. That said some thought does need to go into them, and not every type of issue is suitable. There are occasions when it really is better to be there in person.

I have attended remotely on my own with no client participating, and I have “attended” with my client on another screen. I have also conducted hearings remotely with my client present in court and so the system is very flexible. You just need to give it some thought.

It can be very convenient. This Summer I represented a driver who was pleading guilty to drink driving. She attended her court in Devon and I addressed the court from my office in Kent. It worked perfectly. The saving on legal fees was significant and probably better than having someone local turn up in person. All the preparation work had been done by Zoom meetings and it all just suited the work to be done.

Everyone needs to properly prepare for a remote hearing and treat it with respect like a face to face hearing. I have found court staff setting the hearings up to be really helpful. Courts still prefer to keep the numbers attending in person to the minimum so it will be with us for a while yet. The process is very simple. I make an email application for a video link hearing with a brief explanation of what I am doing, and its granted unless there is a good reason not to. I haven’t had a refusal yet.

On the day before the hearing the court sends participants a link to click on. This admits you to a virtual waiting room and you’re allowed in when the court is ready. It’s very simple. All you need is a good wifi connection and a reliable device.

When preparing I say to clients make sure you have documents in front of you that you may want. Sit somewhere you won’t be interrupted and ideally at a table. Treat it seriously. Dress as you would for court and look smart. Don’t look as you though you have just rolled out of bed. The screens in court are large and it will show!

If you’re doing it yourself make some notes and plan what you are going to say. Impressions matter. If you want someone to sit with you and help, just ask the court if its ok. It usually is.

There are some rules to follow. Recordings and screen shots are prohibited and a criminal offence. You are asked to take drinks from a glass and avoid bottles and the appearance you are having breakfast or lunch. Courts generally work well when everyone involved behaves respectfully.
Communicating with me during such a hearing requires a bit of thought but its easily covered. I do it by text or Whatsapp or a telephone call with the video link muted and these work well. Thorough communications before hand usually mean there is little room for a problem.

So think about such hearings and talk the option through with me. They suit every type of case but they do suit many circumstances and can represent a significant saving in legal costs.

Geography no longer presents an obstacle.

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