THE REMOTE ACCESS FAMILY COURT: NOW IN IT’S THIRD EDITION: GUIDANCE ON HEARINGS

It says a lot that the Remote Access Family Court by Mr Justice MacDonald was in its 3rd version by April 3.  It remains the case that much that is said there is of relevance to non-family practitioners.  For instance it is interesting to see what the guidance says about remote hearings.

30. All parties must ensure that they are ready to linked in promptly at the listed time. It is inevitable,
particularly in the early stages of remote hearings, that there will be technical issues. Parties must be
sympathetic and flexible regarding any technical difficulties that may be experienced by another party
to proceedings. Professional decorum should be maintained at all times and in particular:
(a) Advocates should dress as if they were attending court but advocates are not required to robe
for any remote hearings.
(b) Participants should ensure that the background visible on the screen is appropriate for a court
hearing and that they are adequately lit in order to allow their face to be seen.
(c) Participants must ensure that they will not be interrupted or distracted during the course of
the hearing.
(d) Participants should not move away from the screen without permission of the judge during
the course of a remote hearing.
(e) The usual restrictions on eating and drinking in a Court room apply.
(f) All reasonable steps must be taken to preserve the confidentiality of the proceedings. This
will include ensuring that participants are indoors in a room with the door closed and alone,
unless they are a party to the proceedings sitting with another party to the same proceedings.
(g) The use of earphones is permitted and encouraged if their use will assist in preserving the
confidentiality of proceedings.
(h) The judiciary and other advocates should be addressed as if they were in a physical courtroom.
It is not however, necessary to stand when the Judge joins the hearing or when addressing
the Judge.
31. Anybody attending the remote hearing should ensure they have good connection/signal to avoid
a breakdown in connection during hearing. As noted above, the minimum recommended bandwidth
for a successful remote video hearing is 1.5 MBPS in both directions. With respect to the hearing
itself:
(a) All participants to the remote hearing should join the remote hearing prior to the Judge.
(b) The Judge’s camera and microphone should remain on at all times during the hearing.
(c) Unless addressing the Judge, or otherwise requested to do so, all other participants should
have their microphones muted at all times.
(d) Unless directed otherwise, all participants should leave their cameras turned on at all times.
(e) At the start of a hearing, the Court will identify all participants to the remote hearing and give
any additional directions the Court wishes to make about the use of cameras and
microphones.
(f) The Court will give any necessary warnings including warnings to all parties regarding
recording and confidentiality. The parties will be asked to turn on their microphones whilst
warnings are given, and will be invited to confirm their understanding of the warnings given.
(g) When a witness is giving evidence, that witness must keep their camera and microphone on
at all times.
(h) Advocates may need to take instructions during the course of a hearing and time should be
provided to do so.