HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is planning to expand its use of video conferencing technology in court hearings.
It has outlined plans for the Video Hearings Service (VHS) with a procurement notice placing the value at £24 million.
It says HMCTS wants to appoint a supplier to provide a video conferencing facility and develop an interface with a front end application already developed by the service, along with support for its operation.
This is intended to replace video conferencing systems currently in use and provide for an expansion in the use of the technology.
Enhance and roll out
“VHS is currently used on a relatively small scale and the intention is to enhance the existing service and roll it out across the judicial estate,” the notice says.
“The capability to enable remote hearings, irrespective of platform, was a significant component of HMCTS’s Covid response and ongoing recovery. Conducting remote hearings is now an integral part of daily business and the benefits are widely acknowledged.”
HMCTS began a series of pilots for video hearings in 2018 and in 2020 increased their use during the Covid-19 pandemic, then produced a positive evaluation. But earlier this year the House of Commons Justice Committee urged the Ministry of Justice to carry out research on how the technology might place defendants with cognitive impairments, mental health and neurodivergent conditions at a disadvantage.