A REMOTE HEARING IS NOT INNATELY UNFAIR: NOR DOES IT CREATE AN INEQUALITY OF ARMS
In Attorney General of the Turks and Caicos Islands v Misick & Ors  UKPC 30 the Privy Council rejected an argument that continuing a criminal trial by remote means would be innately unfair.
” It cannot be said that it would be unfair for any part of the trial to be conducted remotely. Covid-19 has necessarily required court procedures in many countries to be adapted so as to enable courts to continue sitting, and the use of audio visual links has been of great assistance in enabling them to do so.”
The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council were considering an appeal on the issue of whether a criminal case could, potentially, proceed remotely. The case was being heard by a single judge. The trial had been, effectively, adjourned by the Covid outbreak, but proposals were being considered that it be re-started remotely. The appellants (the defendants in the criminal case) had argued that the regulations that allowed this were ultra vires. This decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal which also rejected an argument that a trial by video link would place the appellants at a substantial disadvantage. The appellants appealed to the Privy Council.
THE DECISION OF THE PRIVY COUNCIL
The Privy Council rejected the appeal on the grounds that the relevant regulations were ultra vires. It also rejected an argument that a remote hearing led to “inequality of arms”.