COVID-19 shutdown sees court cases move to remote platforms

Posted on 22 May 2020

The outbreak of COVID-19 has presented a unique challenge to public services in recent weeks, and has led to the closure of the UK Supreme Court as well as courts around the globe presently.

Whilst audio and video technology already play a significant role in the justice system, it’s now been stepped up in response to the present situation. Cases are now being conducted remotely by video conference, where all participants including judges and lawyers are connecting from home, and proceedings are now being streamed on the court website, with judgements being delivered live.

This is set to continue for some time as the UK and the rest of the world continue to battle to control the outbreak. While, long-term social distancing measures are here to stay and will continue to affect the way we used to do things for a while longer.

A recent report by the government (Source) identified that in England and Wales, more than 80 per cent of the country’s court and tribunal caseload was handled remotely, last month.

Just months ago, the very notion of holding a completely remote court case, where everyone logged on to Zoom, might have been hugely frowned upon. However, as we’ve quickly learned to adapt to our current circumstances, it now feels like the ‘new normal’, could this be a sign of things to come? Overnight converts seem to think so, but we’re not sure, their most likely needs to be more long-term piloting and specific technology and software created, to be able to deliver this in the long-term.

Recent press articles, with interviews from barristers, suggests that recreating the courtroom isn’t as easy from home. According to guidelines published by The Inns of Court College of Advocacy (ICCA), remote-working barristers should use at least two, if not three, screens during remote hearings: one screen to display video, another for the electronic bundle and a third for communicating with team members. Having that amount of hardware and technology to hand, sounds like it could be a challenge.

One thing we’re sure is that with the substantial advancement in technology, such as Zoom and Skype, it is now possible to achieve. This just goes to show that even one of the oldest industries of our time, can adapt to new ways of working, if only temporarily.

In recent weeks, City Legal has been called-upon more and more to support remote interpreting across the sector, the experience has been overwhelmingly positive and we’re delighted to have been able to continue to support our clients during this time.

Find out more about our remote interpreting service here.


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