Successful tests pave way for remote hearings to begin this month

Successful tests pave way for remote hearings to begin this month

Chief Justice Frank Clarke

Remote court hearings are set to begin later this month following a successful trial of the new technology, the Chief Justice has announced.

Solicitors, barristers and courts staff across various jurisdictions are now taking part in mock hearings ahead of the use of the technology in actual cases “early in the next legal term”, Chief Justice Frank Clarke said.

The pilot of the technology was announced earlier this month in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the administration of justice.

The “systems trial” of the platform was successfully completed last week.

If the mock hearings now taking place “are conducted satisfactorily, it is hoped that remote hearings of actual cases will begin early in the next legal term”, which begins on 20 April 2020, Chief Justice Clarke said.

He added: “It is envisaged that the first remote hearings will take place in the appellate courts and a gradual roll-out to other jurisdictions could follow, building on the experience gained.”

The judge paid tribute to the solicitor and barrister professions for their “continued support”, as well as the Courts Service for “expediting the IT infrastructure necessary to conduct these remote hearings”.

However, Chief Justice Clarke warned that remote hearings “will not be suitable for all cases” and it would be up to the president of each court to “determine just how the facility will work in their own court”.

He said: “It is intended that each president will, in the coming days, issue guidance or practice directions which will give details of how remote hearings will operate in their court. This guidance may also set out other measures designed to facilitate greater progress of ongoing litigation.

“Parties, practitioners and interested members of the public should follow those details for greater information about how cases in which they have an interest will progress.”

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