HMCTS: Evaluation of Remote Hearings during the COVID 19 pandemic – CBA Chair’s View: 10.12.21
You may yet to fully digest the evaluation of Remote Hearings from HMCTS circulated this afternoon. Having had the chance to read the full report myself, I believe the evaluation of remote hearings by HMCTS confirms that criminal lawyers are overwhelmingly (93%) in favour of the use of CVP, particularly in the extremely difficult conditions of operating in the midst of a pandemic.
Now that we are facing a renewed and extremely serious threat to our health with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, it is even more crucial that our judiciary approaches applications for CVP with sympathy and flexibility.
We recognise that any decisions must be consistent with the interests of justice, but we urge the judiciary to interpret that test so as to include proper consideration of the inevitable risks to advocates and other court users of physically attending courts. We hope that the judiciary will be sensitive to the enhanced risks faced by those advocates who are medically vulnerable or shielding, and that they are not compelled to disclose personal details other than on a confidential basis.
The CBA will continue to offer support to our members as they endeavour to protect themselves and their families from avoidable exposure to potential infection when that risk can and should be minimised.
Jo Sidhu QC
HMCTS declares the objective of its findings as being to evaluate the implementation of remote hearings during the pandemic and to make recommendations for use of remote hearings in the longer term.
The findings in the evaluation include:
• members of the public attending remotely were slightly more likely to be satisfied with the overall experience of their hearing than in-person users. Benefits include greater convenience, reduced costs and removing the worry of being in the same room as a participant, who they may be in conflict with.
• legal representatives were positive about remote hearings, with 93% saying they felt remote hearings were an acceptable alternative during the pandemic. Views were more mixed about how remote hearings should be used in the future.
• 51% of judges thought remote hearings were effective at creating a comparable environment to in-person hearings. Concerns were raised about the impact of remote hearings on wellbeing and increased workload.
Recommendations include improved guidance for participants and increased support for vulnerable users.View more news