A judge has complained about the ‘unacceptable’ quality of his connection with a barrister trying to join a sentencing hearing. Gabrielle McAvock was appearing on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service in the case of a man convicted of causing serious injury while dangerous driving. 

The barrister began opening the prosecution case at Reading Crown Court but her audio continually cut out. His Honour Judge Alan Blake interrupted her to say the quality of the link was ‘simply unacceptable’ and that the hearing would have to be adjourned.

The incident followed a report by the Bar Council highlighting numerous issues with remote hearings. Criminal and family law specialists speaking to Bar Council researchers raised concerns over the ‘quality and the reliability of the tech’, which they said ‘often reduces the effectiveness of the hearings’. 

At the Reading hearing, the judge told the prosecutor: ‘I received an application from your clerks yesterday indicating you would be at court dealing with another matter. It looks to me very much that you are at home.’

McAvock appeared to say that she was at Oxford Crown Court or had been doing a hearing at Oxford but she was unable to be properly heard on the link. 

Blake added: ‘I am afraid this link is unacceptable. I am not prepared to deal with something with this poor quality link. I am going to invite the CPS to say whether McAvock can attend court, or whether there is another advocate who can open the case.’

The court also heard from defence counsel that a sentencing note in the case had not been uploaded to the digital system.

Blake informed McAvock he would put the matter back to 2pm and said: ‘In the first instance, if you are able to, I am going to invite you to get in the car or on a train and come to Reading and deal with this matter. If that is impossible, I am going to ask you to contact the CPS so that another advocate can be in place in court.’ He added: ‘Judges try and be as flexible and compliant for requests for CVP as possible. This is an example of a time when it is inappropriate.’

After the judge rose, McAvock could be heard to say that she was planning to get on the train to attend court. After she arrived, the judge told her: 'I am sure you will appreciate that the guidance for permitting counsel to appear via video link is that participants should be able to hear and see each other clearly with no distractions.

Through 'no particular fault of yours, for whatever technical reason, we simply could not', he added.