Coronavirus: British Courts To Adapt With Video Calling

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With a temporary pause on new jury trials in British Crown Courts due to Coronavirus pandemic, Justice ministry says video calling must be used

The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic is being felt in the venerable British justice system after the government issued new guidance for courts.

It comes after Lord Chief Justice has announced a temporary pause on new jury trials in Crown Courts. Existing jury trials which are already underway will continue until they reach a conclusion.

And it was revealed that measures are being put in place to “ensure that physical hearings can take place safely and in accordance with advice on social distancing.”

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Video calling

“During this unprecedented public health emergency, it’s essential that our courts and tribunals continue to administer justice” said the government. “We’re adjusting practices and taking steps to minimise any risk to the judiciary, staff, professional and public users, including justice partners.”

And it seems the courts are planning for hearings to take place remotely, if possible.

“We have put in place arrangements to use telephone, video and other technology to continue as many hearings as possible remotely,” it said. “We will make best possible use of the equipment currently available; and are working non-stop to update and add to that. Some hearings, the most obvious being jury trials, cannot be conducted remotely.”

Other measures will see hand sanitiser being installed at every site.

And the government made clear the courts can now start holding trials and hearings through video calling.

“Judges can consider telephone or video links in a number of circumstances,” the government said. “This includes for example where a defendant does not need to attend in person an application to appeal refusal of bail in the crown court, or in preliminary and enforcement hearings. We will make as much use of our current technologies as possible, and are working urgently to increase our capacity, so we can keep our courts and tribunals running smoothly.”

It remains to be seen how people can use Skype or FaceTime to attending court hearings.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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