The way in which we all work has been challenged in recent weeks and the UK court system is no exception.
The work of courts and tribunals is continuing but it has been consolidated into fewer buildings, maintaining safety in line with public health advice.
There are 157 priority court and tribunal buildings open for essential face-to-face hearings. This represents 42% of the 370 crown, magistrates, county and family courts and tribunals across England and Wales.
For the remaining courts, the capacity for phone and video hearings has been significantly increased and remote hearings have been introduced as a response to the Coronavirus outbreak.
The Law Society has produced an interactive map which shows which courts are open during the crisis. CLICK HERE to view the map.
Speaking on the subject, The Lord Chief Justice said: “An extraordinary amount of hard work has gone into keeping our justice system functioning. Technology is being used creatively to ensure that many cases can continue. Not everything can be dealt with remotely and so we need to maintain functioning courts.
“These temporary adjustments to how we use the court estate will help ensure that we can continue to deal with work appropriately in all jurisdictions whilst safeguarding the well-being of all those who work in and visit the courts.”
The measures which came into effect on 30th March, will be kept in place for as long as necessary to comply with government and public health advice and will be reviewed regularly.
How will it work?
The courts will be making use of existing technology including the Justice Video Service in the criminal courts, and provision for audio hearings that exists in the civil courts.
Many have expanded capacity and have worked to increase and improve the ways in which audio and video technology can support hearings to take place.
The HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has outlined some of the measures it has introduced:
It has increased the number of teleconferences using BTMeetMe. Participants are sent conference call phone numbers, and no specialist equipment is required other than a phone.
Skype for Business on HMCTS and judicial systems is being used for videoconferencing. Participants in a hearing do not need Skype for Business to join the videoconferences, however they will need the free Skype meetings app.
Each participant will receive instructions and a link to click to join the hearing, as a ‘guest’. Once users click on the link, they should follow the browser’s instructions for installing Skype Meetings App. Users need to do this as early as possible, to be prepared for the hearing. At the time of the hearing, users go to the Skype Meetings App sign-in page, enter their name, and select “Join”.
HMCTS has increased capacity, undertaken testing, and is now introducing a ‘cloud video platform’ (CVP) for hearings. CVP uses Kinly videoconferencing software. These videoconferencing rooms can be accessed through any laptop or video device. It can also use bridging links to communicate with fixed endpoints that use the Justice Video Service, in courts, prisons and police stations.
The HMCTS stated: “Running our courts and tribunals is an essential public service. Audio and video technology has long played a part in the justice system and can now provide particular support during the Coronavirus outbreak.
“A range of guidance from the senior judiciary encourages the use of telephone and video to support hearings. To support this, we have taken urgent steps to increase the capacity of our existing systems, to introduce new capabilities, and to provide guidance to our staff on organising telephone and video-enabled hearings.
“These measures would ordinarily involve extensive testing, training and slow roll-out. Given the current, unprecedented, public health emergency, we are prioritising making these capabilities available now, and will continue to improve how we use them as the weeks progress.”
NV Legal has also adapted the way it works during the crisis. All solicitors and office staff are working remotely from the safety of their own homes. We always have technology to remain in contact and are offering video conferencing for clients if required.
We remain in constant contact via any of our channels and can provide round-the-clock advice on legal matters including personal injury and professional negligence:
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