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HMCTS to use video and telephone hearings during Coronavirus outbreak

31 March 2020

The CEO of Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has announced changes to the operation of courts and tribunals buildings during the Coronavirus outbreak.

In a letter to stakeholders she says that, from Monday 30 March 2020, there will be two types of HMCTS operating sites:

"The first is for in-person hearings which will be heard in a network of 157 court and tribunal buildings. These will remain open to the public for essential face-to-face hearings. They will also support video and audio hearings.

The second type of operating sites will be 124 ‘staffed’ buildings that will be used only by HMCTS staff and the judiciary to carry out vital work. They will be closed to the public and professional users.

HMCTS has also issued guidance on how it will use telephone and video technology during the coronavirus outbreak.

Introducing the new guidance, HMCTS says:

"Running our courts and tribunals is an essential public service. Audio and video technology has long played a part in the justice system and can now provide particular support during the coronavirus outbreak.

"A range of guidance from the senior judiciary encourages the use of telephone and video to support hearings. To support this, we have taken urgent steps to increase the capacity of our existing systems, to introduce new capabilities, and to provide guidance to our staff on organising telephone and video-enabled hearings.

"These measures would ordinarily involve extensive testing, training and slow roll-out. Given the current, unprecedented, public health emergency, we are prioritising making these capabilities available now, and will continue to improve how we use them as the weeks progress."

HMCTS says that the decision as to how a hearing is conducted is a matter for the judge, magistrates or panel, who will determine how best to uphold the interests of justice.

"In considering the suitability of video/audio, judges will consider issues such as the nature of the matters at stake during the hearing; any issues the use of video/audio technology may present for participants in the hearing, having regard to individuals’ needs; and any issues around public access to or participation in the hearing."

The HMCTS telephone and video hearings during coronavirus outbreak information is here.

Daily HMCTS updates can be found at the gov.uk website.