17 July, 2020
Judicial College publishes interim guidance on good practice for remote hearings during coronavirus outbreak
Guidance sets out factors for judges to consider in deciding whether to proceed with a case remotely, and tips for ensuring that everyone can fully participate in remote hearings
The Judicial College has published interim guidance on good practice for remote hearings.
Following the launch of a revised and updated Equal Treatment Bench Book on 5 May 2020, the interim guidance - which has been produced by the Judicial College's Equal Treatment Bench Book committee - advises courts and tribunals judges on conducting fair hearings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
The guidance identifies a range of factors that judges might consider when considering whether to direct a remote hearing, including that -
- not everyone has access to technology, and that there is a disparity of such access and access to the internet based upon socio-economic factors, age and disability;
- some individuals may not be able to read or internalise courts and tribunals guidance for a remote hearing;
- those living alone may not have assistance, and there is still a barrier in admitting to reading difficulties;
- a remote hearing taking place at home might occur alongside distractions which inhibit evidence, such as domestic violence, coercive control, and overcrowding;
- parties may not have a quiet private room, and there may be demands on their attention from pets, partners, children;
- interpreter and intermediary use may be problematic unless specific arrangements can be made; and
- technology may give rise to specific difficulties for those with sensory impairments.
In addition, the guidance sets out tips for conducting a remote hearing in a way that enables everyone to participate fully, which include -
- explaining at the outset the risk of IT failing and what to do if the link fails;
- enquiring as to the needs of those appearing, so as to work out accommodations and manage the hearing accordingly;
- establishing at the outset whether there will be any unavoidable interruptions, eg deliveries; important incoming phone calls; childcare issues; and
- spelling out the approach to the hearing so that the parties understand what is expected.
The Judicial College's interim guidance on Good Practice for Remote Hearings is available from judiciary.uk