Lord Chief Justice announces major step forward in video hearings

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A new Video Hearing Service for court cases is to be rolled out, Lord Burnett (the Lord Chief Justice) announced at the 2021 Legal Wales Conference. It will replace the Cloud Video Platform which was introduced last year to keep the courts functioning during the Covid crisis.

The new service will allow participants to join legal proceedings from any suitable location. It will save time, inconvenience, and expense for participants in travelling to hearings and is expected to improve access to justice.

Lord Burnett said the Video Hearing Service introduces many additional features. These include virtual consultation rooms, checks to ensure compatibility, and an explanation of court rules for users. The system will also have a monitored hearing network to ensure no-one drops out unnoticed.

Technological improvement will also help in the listing of cases. The ‘List Assist’ tool will help with scheduling and in some places will replace paper diaries. In time, it is expected to merge with case management systems, reducing the need for information to be re-entered into multiple systems.

The Lord Chief Justice acknowledged that not all cases are appropriate for video hearings. He suggested that some matters, such as procedural hearings and arguments about law, would be suited to remote hearings, but said it was hard to draw up a hard and fast rule. He said that “judges continue to feel their way” and added that experience showed that face-to-face meetings could resolve issues – “often outside the court itself.”

James Burgoyne of Brunel Professions said: “Video hearings played an important part in keeping the justice system operating in the early days of the Covid crisis, and have become part of the ongoing modernisation of the UK Courts. The new system sounds to be a significant step forward and is likely to make an important contribution to reducing cost and speeding resolution in professional negligence and other court cases. As cost issues affect priorities in defending cases, changes that reduce costs are often welcome.”

Lord Burnett’s speech has been published on the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary website. Reports about the announcement have been published by Law Society Gazette and Legal Futures.

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