A round of cases testing the experience of internet hearings will run from the spring
HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has said the first pilots of video hearings for tax appeals will begin during the spring.
The hearings will take place over the internet with each participant logging in from a location of their choice and using a webcam, with the judge located in a court room.
Video technology is already used in some cases in criminal courts to save victims and witnesses from coming face-to-face with the accused. The pilot is taking the concept a step further, with all the attendees including the judge participating via video.
HMCTS said that using the technology for technical parts of cases that mainly involve legal professionals and judges could save court time.
It added that judges will make the decisions on whether specific cases should be heard through video, and that there will be scope for private online conversations before hearings begin, as with a conventional court process.
It is writing to potential participants this week to invite them to take part in the pilot. A spokesperson said that it will take in judges from different courts around England and cover 24 cases in all, expected to run over about two months.
It will be followed by an evaluation to assess how video hearings could improve access to justice and help cases progress more quickly.
Justice Minister Lucy Frazer (pictured) said: “We are spending £1 billion on transforming and modernising the justice system. Video hearings have the potential to improve access to justice and speed up cases.
“This pilot will provide important information – together with an increasing body of evidence from other countries – to drive innovation to make the wider system quicker, smarter, and much more user-friendly.”
This marks the latest step in HMCTS’s digitisation of the justice process. It has recently made it possible to pursue some of a divorce application online and claimed some early success in the ‘digital sentencing’ of fare dodgers.
Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0