A pilot enabling domestic abuse victims to take part in hearings by video link from a computer in their solicitor’s office has begun running in Manchester.
HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) said video links had been used in six applications for injunctions at Manchester Civil Justice Centre so far and feedback from those involved has been positive.
Suitable cases are dependent on judicial discretion and those taking part in the tests must have legal representation.
Jane Campbell, a partner at Makin Dixon, one of two law firms involved in the pilot, said: “Accessing the hearing has made a real difference to our client. She was a referral from victim support who commented how convenient it was for the client.
“The victim was too scared to go home last night and doing this over video has really made a positive impact.
“The video hearing has the gravitas of a court room. The interview suite is set up with all the necessary tools to swear in a witness and the client gets to see the judge and observe the process.”
Justice minister Lucy Frazer said: “We are hearing that, even in the early stages, testing fully video hearings are having a positive effect and ensuring the justice system is supporting people at one of the most difficult times in their lives.”
The use of video in hearings is one of the more contentious aspects of the £1bn court modernisation programme, but there are now several pilots running.
Fully video hearings are being tested in a small number of cases involving civil cases – such as set-aside judgements – and first-direction appointments in family cases at both Manchester and Birmingham Civil Justice Centres. There is also a second pilot in the tax tribunal.
All are being independently evaluated.
Earlier this week, we reported on the findings of a researcher that said the experience of using video-link technology to hold immigration bail hearings showed how far it has to go to be as effective as face-to-face hearings.
There continue to be widespread reservations about the technology.