Remote Court Hearings – part 2-what should I do?

Remote Hearings-the important part: what should I do

  1. Remote Hearings

During the Covid-19 pandemic, all effective hearings were held remotely by telephone or video conferencing with the court’s permission. No formal application for a remote hearing was required.  Since the ending of the lock down conditions set during the pandemic, judges can consider whether the hearing can be dealt with remotely. This legal blog details how to prepare prior to and to be prepared during the remote hearing.

  1. Prior to the Hearing: Be prepared

If you are involved in a case where a court hearing is listed, do the following in advance of the hearing date:

1.1 Your attendance at court for a remote hearing can be by telephone or video facilities.

Judges/Magistrates will require parties to be proactive and for the hearings to be focused on realistic options. This will require a lot more preparation by the Local Authority (as applicants) in advance of the hearing. As the social worker, it will be extremely beneficial to provide all updated information to the Local Authority solicitor prior to the hearing. In the event that matters can be agreed upon prior to the hearing between the parties, it could result in proposed agreed directions or a draft consent order and thereby possibly avoid the need for the remote hearing.

1.2       The court will endeavour to hear cases on the listed hearing dates however, that is only if appropriate arrangements can be made for a remote hearing to be effective. The time of the hearing is either detailed on the order or can be stipulated nearer to the date of the hearing.

1.3       Nearer to the hearing date, confirm the hearing is going ahead, confirm the time slot allocated and how you are to engage in the remote hearing:

  • If you work for the Local Authority, contact the Local Authority solicitor to confirm that the hearing is still effective. You will then be provided with details of the remote hearing, including the link to connect to the hearing via video or telephone.
  • If the Local Authority is not involved, then contact either the court or one of the parties’ solicitors, who will be able to assist.
  • If there are no solicitors involved, then the court should be contacted.
  • Parents, family members or vulnerable adults should be encouraged to seek independent legal representation so that they can be supported through this process.  Local specialist solicitors can be found at

1.4 Have your device ready prior to the start time for the hearing.

          2.  During the hearing:

2.1. Maintain confidentiality.

Remote family and court of protection cases are to remain confidential. So when involved in a remote hearing, ensure you are able to attend the hearing by telephone or video in a private place, where you will not be overheard by others.

The risk that parents or family members may make a recording of the hearing during the pandemic was recognised by s.55 and schedule 25 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 and makes it an offence to:

a) to record a live link or make an image or a sound taken from a live link or transmit material gained through participation in a live link

(b) to record a broadcast from a court directed for the purposes of enabling the public to see and hear proceedings.

The schedule makes it an offence to use material even if it is obtained outside of the case, that is, through hacking a link.

2.2 Maintain court etiquette

In advance of the hearing be aware of your physical environment from where you will be during the whole of the hearing. Background noises should be avoided, if possible, or kept to a minimum. Remember irrespective of your (domestic) location, you are participating in a (remote) court hearing. So dress and act professionally (if the hearing is by video link) and always speak clearly.

3.3. Taking the Oath/Affirmation

If you are going to give evidence as a witness, unless a member of the court staff is also remotely linked, it is likely that the Judge will administer the oath or affirmation. Mostyn J in a case in the Court of Protection used a short form in his case and asked witnesses, “do you swear or affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”

You will not be required to hold your Holy Book if you decide to take the Oath, unless you have one to hand.

3.4     Electronic (E) Bundles

The court will have access to the court bundle in the form of an E bundle. The E bundles are available to the Judge/Magistrates, lawyers, parties and witnesses online

3.5      Hearings are to be recorded.

The guidance requires that the hearings be recorded. If necessary, a transcript can then be produced later.

Finally, embrace the benefits of remote hearings:

  1. Hearings start on time (subject to the technology working)
  2. The hearings will tend to be shorter and more focused
  3. No need to worry about traffic/parking issues
  4. There is no waiting, standing in corridors, balancing laptops while waiting to go into court.
  5. Acceptance for patience and understanding by all.

Arrangements may need to be regularly reviewed as issues arise, and solutions are considered. Therefore, there is a need to be flexible and adaptable in the fast-moving landscape we find ourselves in. Ending with the positive advice from Lord Burnett of Maldon, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, “any legal impediments will be dealt with.”

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