Global initiative to help public court services cope with coronavirus
In a nutshell – As the coronavirus spreads, law courts around the world are closing. Most countries are rapidly setting up facilities for remote hearings (by audio and video). To help accelerate this global transformation in court service, Remote Courts Worldwide is launched today. This service has been designed to help the global community of justice workers (judges, lawyers, court officials, litigants, court technologists) to share their experiences of developing remote alternatives to traditional court hearings in physical buildings. It will capture best practice on a new website www.remotecourts.org
Context - To ensure ongoing access to justice, governments and judiciaries are rapidly introducing various forms of 'remote court' - audio hearings (largely by telephone), video hearings (for example, by Skype and Zoom), and paper hearings (decisions delivered on the basis of paper submissions). At remarkable speed, new methods and techniques are being developed. However, there is a danger that the wheel is being reinvented and there is unnecessary duplication of effort across the world. In response, Remote Courts Worldwide offers a systematic way of remote-court innovators and people who work in the justice system to exchange news about working systems, plans, ideas, policies, protocols, techniques, and safeguards.
Joint effort – Remote Courts Worldwide is a collaborative project, involving the Society for Computers and Law, the UK LawTech Delivery Panel, and Her Majesty's Courts & Tribunals Service. It also builds on the community built at the First International Forum on Online Courts, held in London in December 2018, when 300 people from 26 countries came together to talk about using technology to transform the work of courts.
Remote Courts Worldwide is being led by Professor Richard Susskind, President of the Society for Computers and Law, and an expert in online courts. “It’s time to come together, globally, to accelerate the introduction of remote hearings by judges. We have no choice. Physical courts are closing. There’s little point in lamenting any lack of past investment nor in predicting that the technology will fail. Let’s make it happen. We must seize the moment and come together to accelerate the development of new ways of delivering just outcomes for court users.”
“In law, as in so many aspects of our lives, the Coronavirus is overthrowing our traditional ways of doing things. The legal sector remains a core pillar of society and we must innovate to ensure it delivers on its purpose, for all of us. This new global initiative will facilitate the exchange of ideas and best practice from around the world, providing new ways of delivering justice through these unprecedented times and beyond.” Jenifer Swallow, LawTech Director , Tech Nation, Lawtech Delivery Panel
“The current crisis is unprecedented and requires us rapidly to explore new and innovative ways to ensure the justice system continues to operate. Remote hearings are an important part of helping us meet the challenges we face, and we are working flat out to increase the use of audio and video technology in courts and tribunals across England and Wales. In doing so, we are drawing heavily on the know-how we have gained as a result of HMCTS’s ongoing reform programme.
I therefore warmly welcome this initiative and support ways in which we can enhance international knowledge and collaboration in this vital field. It builds on the successful International Online Courts Forum held in London in December 2018 and will help us both share our expertise as well as draw on the experiences of other justice systems across the world too.” Susan Acland-Hood, Chief Executive of HM Courts & Tribunals Service
“In response to the effect that the coronavirus crisis is having on court services worldwide, the Society for Computers and Law is pleased to support this important initiative. In these challenging times, it is vital to ensure that technology is used as a power for good; removing barriers and helping people gain access to justice safely and efficiently.” Mark O’Conor, Chair, Society for Computers and Law
For further information please email Maddie Southorn, SCL Communications Manager – firstname.lastname@example.org