- Video technology applied to a small number of civil cases
- Vulnerable victims can avoid travelling to court
- Previous trials in tax tribunals were welcomed by court users
The study by HM Courts and Tribunal Service at Manchester Civil Justice Centre means vulnerable people can appear before the court using a video link from a computer in their solicitor’s office, avoiding the distress of appearing in court at an already difficult time.
This has been used in six cases so far and feedback from those involved has been positive. Testing will continue in the family and civil courts during the coming months and is being independently evaluated.
Justice Minister, Lucy Frazer, said:
We are hearing that, even in the early stages, testing fully video hearings are having a positive effect and ensuring the justice system is supporting people at one of the most difficult times in their lives.
I look forward to seeing the evaluation of this work and ensuring we continue to improve access to our courts through new innovations.
Injunction applications are often made by victims of domestic abuse, in cases of intimidation or threat of violence. Currently, those asking to be made safe are required to travel to court to appear before a judge. Participants in the tests can instead join a fully-video hearing from their solicitor’s office, using a laptop, which can also allow the injunction to be heard more quickly.
Jane Campbell, a partner at Makin Dixon, a legal firm representing a female client said:
Accessing the hearing has made a real difference to our client, she was a referral from victim support who commented how convenient it was for the client. The victim was too scared to go home last night and doing this over video has really made a positive impact
The video hearing has the gravitas of a court room. The interview suite is set up with all the necessary tools to swear in a witness and the client gets to see the judge and observe the process.
The testing is part of HMCTS’ £1bn Reform Programme, which is bringing new technology and modern ways of working to the justice system, with more than 150,000 people using new online services in 2018 alone. The current pilot follows successful trials in the tax tribunal and relates to cases in the family and civil jurisdiction.
Suitable cases are dependent on judicial discretion and those taking part in the tests must have legal representation. HMCTS is committed to publishing independent evaluations of all fully video hearings pilots.
- Testing in these and other types of cases in Birmingham and Manchester includes testing the selection process for cases as well as the hearings themselves, and follows a previous pilot and evaluation in the tax tribunal last year.
- See the InsideHMCTS blog for more information about video hearings and how they may be used in the future.
- Fully-video hearings are being tested in a small number of cases involving civil or family law at Manchester and Birmingham Civil Justice Centres. In civil law, one type of case involved is set-aside judgements. In family law, we are testing first-direction appointments. Those involved need to be legally represented.
- Two law firms are involved in the testing in Manchester, all of which is done using their own equipment; no special kit is needed.
- Video technology is used widely in courts, but usually just to link one person into a physical court room. With fully video hearings, all parties appear by video.