REMOTE HEARINGS: ARE THERE “TWO NATIONS” OPERATING WITHIN THE COURT SYSTEM (OR MORE THAN THAT…)

The ability of the courts to proceed using remote hearings has to be celebrated. Sometimes, however, it is interesting to contrast the very real technical difficulties being experienced by county courts up and down the country with what appears to be much less problematic position in commercial cases.   We can see this in the judgment of Mr Justice Teare in National Bank of Kazakhstan the Republic of Kazakhstan v The Bank of New York Mellon SA/NV London & Ors [2020] EWHC 916 (Comm). (I don’t think we should begrudge the Commercial Court its ability to do these without a technical hitch, it is just a marked contrast to some of the issues being reported in other courts).

 

THE JUDGMENT

The trial of the issue referred by the Belgian Court took place in late March 2020 in exceptional circumstances, namely, the outbreak of coronavirus. As a result of that outbreak and the restrictions advised or imposed on daily life by governments throughout the world the trial was conducted on a virtual or remote basis. The judge, counsel and solicitors participated from their homes by video link and the witnesses did so from their homes or offices abroad in Kazakhstan, Belgium and the USA. The proceedings could be watched on screen in Court 26 in the Rolls Building and they could also be viewed online (pursuant to the power granted in the Coronavirus Act 2020 to broadcast proceedings). The hearing was conducted without any technical hitch and all parties co-operated to ensure that the hearing took place efficiently and fairly. I am very grateful to the parties, their solicitors and counsel, the witnesses, transcribers, the suppliers of the necessary software and my clerk for enabling a case in the Commercial Court involving international parties and witnesses from several countries to take place notwithstanding the impediments caused by the outbreak of coronavirus.”