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Britain’s courts are looking to video calls to provide a solution as the coronavirus lockdown gathers pace.
Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has advised judges and lawyers that they need to starting using Skype instead of appearing in person in court buildings.
In a statement, the Ministry of Justice added: “We have put in place arrangements to use telephone, video and other technology to continue as many hearings as possible remotely. We will make best possible use of the equipment currently available; and are working nonstop to update and add to that.”
Recent developments have acted as an accelerator to HMCTS’s plans to introduce more technology in courts across the country. The organisation currently has three main video conferencing systems for courtroom use: the Justice Video Service; BT Meet Me, an audio conferencing system; and Skype for Business, which judges can use on their laptops.
Conference calls, however, present issues for Britain’s open justice principle, the concept that anyone can decide to sit in a courtroom’s public gallery and watch justice taking place.
Talking to technology website theregister.co.uk, Ian Murray, of the Society of Editors, commented: “Where possible, the media should be enabled to listen remotely and HMCTS should continue to extend the use of telephone, video and other technology to maintain access.”
All new jury trials have been halted on the order of the Lord Chief Justice, the top judge of England and Wales.