The first fully-video court hearings have been hailed as a success by HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) and the Ministry of Justice.  However critics have highlighted technology issues that need addressing before the system can be used more widely.

Eight tax tribunal appeals were heard by video in a pilot which was independently evaluated by the London School of Economics (LSE).  Hearings were held over the internet with users logging in from their choice of location and using their own equipment.  The judge was located in the court room for the pilot.

The LSE’s research “Implementing Video Hearings: A Process Evaluation” found that users welcomed the fully-video hearings.  They said they were clear, easy to navigate and user-friendly.  One person attended from abroad, saving the need to fly home and a new mother took the opportunity to participate from home.

Justice Minister Lucy Frazer said: “Fully-video hearings have huge potential for those who find it difficult to travel to a courtroom and this trial is a welcome first step.”

Critics, including the Public and Commercial Services Association, have pointed to technology failures and the high level of support required as areas for concern.  It says of eleven hearings, three experienced technology failures, with two having to be conducted by telephone and one rescheduled as a physical hearing.

The Justice Minister acknowledged that technology testing was in its early stages.  “The findings in this report will help us drive the innovation needed to make video hearings a success,” she said.

The trial is part of a £1 billion programme by HMCTS to modernise the court service with the aim of making it swifter, simpler and easier to access.

This pilot demonstrates the huge potential for fully-video court hearings,” said James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions.  “When rolled-out more widely it could speed the resolution of disputes which will be welcomed by professional firms and their insurers.”

Articles about the online pilot have been published by the Law Society Gazette and the Magistrates Association.  Press releases have been issued by HMCTS and the LSE.

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