The Law Society has persuaded HM Courts & Tribunals Service that use of the Common Video Platform should be the default position for solicitors involved in magistrates’ court proceedings in Wales. Following talks, it has been agreed that in relation to CVP, written applications are not required and CVP requests can now be made orally on the day of the hearing.
Similar guidance has been issued to the Crown Prosecution Service.
‘The stance that will be taken by the court is that when notified by defence solicitors that they wish to appear via CVP, the request will be treated as granted unless the court decides it is not in the interests of justice,’ said Mark Davies, vice-chair of the Society’s Wales committee.
Davies hailed the concession as a ‘huge win’ for Chancery Lane.
He added: ‘This is an active measure for keeping courts safe and protecting our members while courts continue to remain open. It must now be effectively used together with continued and proper investment in it as well as other technology, both at the court houses and police stations.’
Davies stressed that there is still ‘a lot of work to do’ to keep solicitors safe in Wales. ‘The next step will be to see greater use of CVP in the police stations for both court attendance and interviews,’ he told the Gazette. ‘Although the technology exists, there have been unfortunate logistical difficulties which have prevented this. Ultimately, the use of CVP will be a significant tool in reducing footfall in courts. That being the case, it is that imperative police forces in England and Wales follow suit and do so as a matter of urgency.’
A report published by the Criminal Justice Joint Inspection this week on the impact of the pandemic said CVP was a ‘lost opportunity’ in bringing down the courts backlog.
The report states that by 10 May 2020, the platform was live in 34 magistrates’ courts and 12 Crown court centres, and more than 2,000 hearings had taken place using CVP. However, by September, the Crown Prosecution Service was only making CVP applications in approximately 15% of cases.