When England entered another national lockdown, the Lord Chief Justice said that no one should be asked to go to court unless strictly necessary and remote attendance must be the default position.
According to HMCTS the number of family cases involving remote technology has increased by a massive 90% since the pandemic began in March 2020.
Whether a hearing takes place remotely or in person it can be an anxious time for clients . There are however, a number of advantages of remote hearings, for example, you avoid the need to travel to the court where the hearing is being dealt with, which may not always be the closest to your home; you avoid the need to be in the same room as your former partner, the prospect of which can often cause additional distress. Another advantage of remote hearings is that you are not kept hanging around a court room for hours on end, for a judge, who may have more than your matter to deal with that day, to be ready to listen to your case.
Remote hearings can take place by telephone or video. If you are informed that the hearing will take place by telephone the Court will call you at the time of the hearing. They will usually call you from an unknown number. If you use call barring services, you will need to turn this off so that the Court can reach you. When the Court call you, they will provide instructions as to what you are required to do to join the hearing. The other parties, including your solicitor and your former partner and their solicitor will also be connected to the call. At the start, the judge or magistrate will introduce themselves and explain the hearing and what you need to do.
If your hearing is taking place via video e.g Microsoft Teams you will need to check beforehand that you have the right internet browser or application on your device and read the guidance on how to join the hearing. You should test your equipment using the platform testing instructions and notify your solicitor and the Court if you experience any difficulties joining the platform or testing your equipment.
Whilst engaged in a remote hearing, it is important that those involved are informed in advance of the need for them to be in a room on their own whilst the hearing takes place. This can take a degree of organisation particularly where at the current time , schools are closed and children are at home whilst their parents are often working remotely.
Not all people have access to the necessary technology or they may have limited knowledge or experience of using e.g. Microsoft Teams. It is essential that clients are provided with as much information to ensure that they are as well prepared as possible for any hearing.
Remote hearings, by their very nature, sometimes makes it difficult for a solicitor to obtain their client’s instructions on a specific issue at the time, which, if the hearing was conducted in person is far easier. It is important to speak to the client in advance of the hearing and to answer any queries they may have in anticipation of the appearance before the court. It is vital that our clients fully understand the outcome of the hearing whether the hearing is conducted remotely or not.
It does appear that whether we like them or not, remote hearings are here to stay. We, at RJT Solicitors, do our best to ensure the experience is as smooth and well prepared as possible. If you have an issue regarding a family matter which involves a court hearing and you require legal advice do not hesitate to give one of our solicitors a call on 01257 228027 or visit www.rjtsolicitors.co.uk