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COVID-19: HMCTS use of technology for hearings

Using existing technology and making new technology available

During these unprecedented times, it is essential that courts and tribunals continue to administer justice which is safe and in line with Government guidelines. Running courts and tribunals is an essential public service. Audio and video technology have long played a part in the justice system and can provide support during this time.

Common practices are being adjusted and steps taken in order to minimise risk to staff, users and partners. Changes will be communicated directly to those impacted; this will take place via email and/ or phone.

Arrangements are now in place for telephone, video and other technology to be used to ensure business continuity and ensure hearings can still take place remotely with equipment being used to its best ability, along with exploring ways to extend their capability in;

  • The Justice Video Service (JVS) which was originally designed to work between fixed endpoints (prisons, courts and police stations).
  • Audio Conferencing System (BT Meet Me), which is widely used in civil courts. More information on the use of existing technology can be found here.

Decisions as to which hearings can be held remotely is at the discretion of the judge, magistrates or panel who can determine how best to uphold the interests of justice. The following will be taken into consideration when making the decision:

  • nature of the matters at stake during the hearing
  • any issues the use of video/audio technology may present for participants in the hearing
  • any issues around public access to or participation in the hearing.

23 March 2020, the Lord Chief Justice has announced a temporary pause on new jury trials in the Crown Court while measures are put in place to ensure that physical hearings can take place safely and in accordance with advice on social distancing. “COVID-19 will clearly have an impact on the operation of all courts in every jurisdiction. It is not realistic to suppose that it will be business as usual in any jurisdiction, but it is of vital importance that the administration of justice does not grind to a halt”. He added: “Our immediate aim is to maintain a service to the public, ensure as many hearings in all jurisdictions can proceed and continue to deal with all urgent matters”.

Please visit our COVID-19 Information Hub for further details and also reach out to us at

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