I applaud and support Jonathan Goldsmith’s detailed and persuasive corrective to what is threatening to be a headlong – indeed scarcely challenged – rush towards video and other remote hearing formats as the preferred and incontestable option (Gazette, 26 February).
The logistical dilemmas he identifies are, frankly, too little understood and therefore yet seriously to be addressed at all. This is especially so when we shift the focus from technical argument to the reputation and liberty of the subject and to full empathy with the accusers.
As a stark recent example, we have had Lord Justice Leveson explaining to both the victims and John Worboys that he had to be produced for the initial judicial review hearing despite all parties’ wishes because the video link to that prison was routinely breaking down. This happens in less well-reported cases on a daily basis.
It goes further. The old technology obstinately adhered to by the Ministry of Justice delivers so inadequately that neither the professionals nor, just as importantly, the parties and their relatives and friends can participate anywhere near as fully as on a conventional ‘live’ hearing.
For the reasons enumerated by Jonathan, ‘live’ is unarguably best. The MoJ, if still intent on favouring a remote second-best format, must meet the clear pre-condition of a technology fit for purpose, inconvenient and costly though it may be.
Malcolm Fowler, solicitor and higher-court advocate, Kings Heath, Birmingham