STATEMENT ON THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE POST-PANDEMIC: FOUR BARS ISSUE A WARNING

In a document issued on the 5th May the Bar Council of England and Wales, the Bar of Ireland, the Bar Council of Northern Ireland and the Faculty of Advocates of Scotland sent out an important message about post-pandemic hearings.  It is part of an important debate about the dangers, and advantages, of remote hearings.

 

THE STATEMENT

“we all take the view that careful consideration is needed before any decision is taken to employ remote hearings more widely, once COVID-19 is behind us. There are, in our mutual experience, multiple and multi-faceted disadvantages with such hearings, when compared to the usual, in-person hearings that have delivered justice for centuries.”

The statement gives numerous reasons why remote hearings can be disadvantageous to the working of justice

“Experience shows that judicial interaction is different and less satisfactory in remote hearings from that experienced in “real life” with the result that hearings can be less effective at isolating issues and allowing argument to be developed.”

THE CONCLUSION

The statement concludes:-

  • We are supportive of the continuing use of technology in our courts.
  • We are supportive of remote hearings becoming the default position for short or uncontroversial procedural business. We recognise that the appropriate use of remote hearings will be vital in tackling accrued backlogs in each of our jurisdictions.
  • However, for any hearing that is potentially dispositive of all or part of a case, the default position should be “in-person” hearings. Remote hearings should be available as an option in such cases where all parties (including the court) agree that proceeding in that way would be appropriate.