Public users attending hearing remotely were “slightly more likely to be satisfied” with the overall experience of their hearing than in-person, according to the HM Courts and Tribunals Service’s evaluation of remote hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report studied the experience of public users, the judiciary, legal representatives, HMCTS staff, and support professionals and their attitudes towards remote hearings.
It revealed user benefits included greater convenience, reduced costs and removing the anxiety of being in a room with another participant, who they may be in conflict with.
Legal representatives were positive about remote hearings, with 93% saying they felt remote hearings were an acceptable alternative during the pandemic and 51% of judges thought remote hearings were effective at creating an environment comparable to in-person hearings, but “raised concerns” about their impact on well-being and increased workload.
The report also recommended more support for vulnerable users and increasing awareness of the support available to public users when attending a remote hearing.
The service said it will use the evaluation findings to “plan developments” to its services, with some findings already addressed by the new Video Hearings service that will replace the Cloud Video Platform (CVP).
The Video Hearings service was developed as a “bespoke, multi-functional” service built specifically for court hearings as part of the HMCTS Reform programme. The service is designed to meet the specific needs of court and tribunal hearings and addresses some of the recommendations found in the report.
The decision to hold a remote hearing remains at the discretion of a judge who will decide if it is in the interests of justice.