COVID-19: The Impact on our Courts (so far)
The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused significant problems for our Court system. Her Majesty’s Court & Tribunal Service (HMCTS) last week published guidance on how the courts and tribunals will operate during this difficult period.
The Lord Chief Justice has encouraged the use of telephone and video technology to hold remote hearings where possible.
The use of remote hearings, rather than simply adjourning hearings, will be absolutely critical to ensure that urgent hearings such as criminal and public family matters can continue to take place, but also so that the Courts are not overloaded with an unsurmountable backlog when things eventually go back to normal and face-to-face hearings are possible.
The decision as to how a hearing is conducted and determining how best to uphold the interests of justice is primarily a matter for the judge, magistrates or panel hearing each individual case.
In considering the suitability of video/audio, judges will consider:-
a) the nature of the matters at stake during the hearing;
b) any issues the use of video/audio technology may present for participants in the hearing;
c) any issues around public access to or participation in the hearing.
The Civil Courts are referring hearings to judges on a day-by-day basis as to how or whether to proceed.
Further information is available on the Government’s website: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/hmcts-telephone-and-video-hearings-during-coronavirus-outbreak#history
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