A pilot will test the fully video courtroom with members of the public for the first time.
HM Courts and Tribunals Service has announced that it is to run a pilot in which tax appeals will be heard in a ‘fully video courtroom’
The first hearings will take place in the Spring. HMCTS say that this will enable people to save the time and money spent travelling to court and waiting for their hearing. It will also make it easier for people with health problems that can make it harder to attend a physical court building.
By testing and evaluating the pilot, HMCTS aim to explore how video hearings might be used to improve access to justice and help cases progress faster.
Video technology is already used in criminal courts to allow some victims and witnesses to give evidence without having to come face to face with the accused. This pilot is taking this concept a step further - with all attendees, including the judge, participating in the hearing via video technology. Making use of technology to hold video hearings for technical parts of cases that mainly involve legal professionals and judges could save court time and help cases to progress faster.
Justice Minister Lucy Frazer, 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.’
HMCTS are writing to potential participants to invite them to take part in the pilot. The video hearings will take place over the internet, with each participant logging in from a location of their choice, using a webcam and, for the purposes of the pilot, the judge located in the courtroom.
HMCTS state that they are working closely with the judiciary to ensure the majesty of a physical courtroom will be upheld. The choice to use this new type of hearing would always be made by the judge in the case. It will be possible for private online conversations to be had before the hearing, and the format and process of the hearing will be the same as in a usual courtroom.