Lawyers and HMCTS launch remote hearings resource

Susskind: Let’s make it happen

A project has gone live enabling the global justice community to share experiences of developing remote alternatives to physical court hearings in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, spearheaded by Professor Richard Susskind.

Remote Courts Worldwide is a collaborative project involving the Society for Computers and Law – of which Professor Susskind is present – the UK LawTech Delivery Panel, and Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS).

It is tapping into the community built at the first international forum on online courts, held in London in December 2018.

The site already includes updates from how the courts in Canada, Singapore, Australia, the US and India are moving to remote hearings.

In a joint statement, the organisers said: “At remarkable speed, new methods and techniques are being developed. However, there is a danger that the wheel is being reinvented and there is unnecessary duplication of effort across the world.

“In response, Remote Courts Worldwide offers a systematic way of remote-court innovators and people who work in the justice system to exchange news about working systems, plans, ideas, policies, protocols, techniques, and safeguards.”

Professor Susskind, whose most recent book was about online courts, said: “It’s time to come together, globally, to accelerate the introduction of remote hearings by judges. We have no choice. Physical courts are closing. There’s little point in lamenting any lack of past investment nor in predicting that the technology will fail.

“Let’s make it happen. We must seize the moment and come together to accelerate the development of new ways of delivering just outcomes for court users.”

Jenifer Swallow, the lawtech director of growth platform Tech Nation, which provides the executive for the lawtech delivery panel, added: “In law, as in so many aspects of our lives, the coronavirus is overthrowing our traditional ways of doing things. The legal sector remains a core pillar of society and we must innovate to ensure it delivers on its purpose, for all of us.

“This new global initiative will facilitate the exchange of ideas and best practice from around the world, providing new ways of delivering justice through these unprecedented times and beyond.”

Meanwhile, on Friday the Court of Appeal heard its first appeal against conviction where all of those involved appeared remotely from different locations.

Red Lion Chambers said its member Andrew Thompson, who was led by senior Treasury counsel Tom Little QC of 9 Gough Square, took part from his kitchen table in Suffolk.

“Each of the participants was asked to rate the experience with almost entirely favourable responses from all,” it said.

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