Remote Court Hearings: Dos and Don’ts
It seems safe to say that the past few months have not been easy for a lot of us. The Covid-19 pandemic has meant we have had to re-think and change not only our personal lives, but our professional ones, too. As with many other professions, those of us working in the legal sector have had to consider new ways to adapt and, as a firm, we are doing everything possible to ensure that we can continue to provide people with legal advice and support in an already challenging time.
Not only have we seen a change in the way we work as a firm, but across the country our judicial system has made radical changes to the way in which court hearings are undertaken, allowing for hearings to take place remotely from the safety of our homes. The most common method of undertaking remote hearings is via telephone, but provision has also been made for video hearings or ‘hybrid’ hearings (i.e. where some parties attend court in person and others participate remotely).
Generally speaking, the majority of remote court hearings are undertaken via telephone. In advance of your hearing (48 hours usually), the court will ask either you or your legal representative to provide your contact telephone number and an email address (just in case). You should then expect a telephone call from the court around the time of your hearing, at which point you will be connected to the telephone conference – the ‘virtual court room’.
We appreciate that going to court can seem daunting (even when you have been before), but at least when you arrive at the court building you have the comfort of a reception area or perhaps people to talk to if you are not sure what to do. Therefore, the prospect of attending a court hearing ‘remotely’ may leave you with a lot of questions, the most likely being; how does it all work? Well, we are here to help and to provide you with some useful tips about what to do, and perhaps more importantly, what not to do!
The ability to undertake remote hearings has been a vital resource for the legal profession and has allowed for the progression of court proceedings at a time where much of the world has grinded to a halt. It is important to bear in mind, however, that remote hearings are by no means the be-all and end-all.
As solicitors, we have had the opportunity to adapt to the process of undertaking a court hearing without actually needing to be in court. Before each remote hearing, we ensure that we have the necessary technology and understanding of the relevant virtual platform, so that we can properly support our clients and help drive their cases forward. However, with the greatest will in the world, no one can plan for everything and the virtual world is not always reliable. Indeed, not everyone has access to the required technology and even when they do, it does not always work.
Ultimately, it is a case of making the most and doing what we can, hopefully in the knowledge that we will be back in the court room as soon as it is safe to do so.