The courts service will take another tentative step towards remote justice with a new pilot scheme for video hearings, HM Courts and Tribunals Service has revealed..
The project, starting at the end of this month, will test a procedure for applications to set aside County Court judgments entered under part 12 of the Civil Procedure Rules.
Proceedings will be heard at the Manchester and Birmingham civil justice centres through an internet video link.
Subject to their consent, parties (or their legal representatives) will attend the hearing of the application, via suitable IT equipment and will see and hear, and be seen and heard by, each other and the judge determining the application.
It is expected that proceedings will be held in public, with members of the public able to attend the court in person and to see and hear the judge and parties on a screen set up in the court room.
The pilot, which runs for a year, is the latest step towards the ongoing reform programme to modernise the courts and tribunals service. The scheme was confirmed as part of the latest update of the CPR circulated last week.
Video hearings are designed to save people time and money which would otherwise be spent travelling to court, featuring a judge remaining in the court environment and parties accessing proceedings through a computer and webcam.
HMCTS said earlier this year it was working with the judiciary to preserve the ‘majesty of a physical courtroom, and judges are still in control of whether to hold a video hearing.
In September, court chiefs said they were happy with the first tribunal hearings full conducted by video, having run eight cases in the first-tier tax tribunal remotely.
Researchers from the London School of Economics reported that parties found the process convenient and easy to understand, although technology probems were commonplace, with the majority of hearings suffering problems such as visibility of parties on screen or access to documents.