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Coronavirus triggers big surge in video court hearings


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Court hearings by video have increased by 800% over two weeks in response to coronavirus, according to the head of HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS).

Susan Acland-Hood highlighted the increase as one of the steps taken to continue proceedings during the pandemic.

She said the arrangements for video and phone hearings had been developed in partnership with the judiciary and others in the justice system and have included a rapid expansion in audio and video equipment.

“There are now more fully video hearings each day than those taking place in person,” she said.

“There’s more to do to make sure we have the right arrangements, technology and skills in every bit of the system to do this as well as we can – and we’re continuing to work on upgrading the systems we’re using, and learning rapidly from what’s been done so far.”

Acland-Hood said much of the work is being supported by staff and judges working out of buildings that are staffed but closed to the public.

Reducing paper movement

She added that an extra benefit has been a reduction in the pressure to move large volumes of paper documents between sites.

The move reflects another step by HMCTS in consolidating its work into fewer locations for the duration of the crisis – although it has kept around 150 buildings open to the public. This has helped cleaning and security contractors do their jobs effectively and ensure that social distancing rules apply.

“We have been hugely grateful at the way all these groups have responded to the crisis and we will continue to engage them closely throughout the next few months,” Acland-Hood said.

Image by Captain Roger Fenton, public domain through flickr

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