by Television ?
Britain's courts have declared they will start holding trials and hearings through video calling – although they appear rather ill-equipped for doing so. As the UK struggles to get to grips with government advice to go home, stay home and only leave those four walls for truly essential journeys, Her Majesty's Courts and …
I understand that, in the civil courts, judges are hastily being trained in the use of Microsoft Teams and there is a lot of pressure to use e-mail and phone calls for case management - and even for "hearings" if possible.
There remains a problem with block lists where a bunch of cases are scheduled to run consecutively on the same day, each one starting as the previous one finishes. The lack of precise scheduling means large numbers of people hanging around waiting for their case to be called.
Courts are also encouraging potential litigants to reflect on whether the court is the best place to resolve their dispute, especially given the economic turmoil that may render any outcome moot.
During a call with reporters on Friday, he said he plans to be more visible in the coming weeks.
“They tell me there’s ways we can do teleconferencing via us all being in different locations,” he said.
Ah, politics. I'm starting to feel sorry for the US in the upcoming election cycle. In other news, this raises interesting judicial questions, like the right to a fair and ideally prompt trial. Especially given the news that the trial of the accused in the death of a police officer has been suspended in Reading due to jurors being sick.
I guess block lists might hasten their demise, so for example one common one being the good'ol UK TV licence lists. For those, AFAIK a lot of people don't bother attending, but could hasten reforms especially as UK's looking to decriminalise or reform the licence fee anyway.
I'm using Edge on this machine. I know MS products are generally despised around these parts, but I'm not prepared to clutter up this computer with third-party browsers and addons when the existing one (assisted by just a hosts file) has been working just fine. I especially distrust the recommendation to switch to Chrome.
I think it's generally appreciated that one of the reasons top QCs are so expensive is their court performance - they know how to put on a show and it is often tailored to the judge in question.
Video and phone conferencing is going to have a dramatic effect in levelling the playing field and allow more junior lawyers to show what they can do with straight argument based on the evidence.
In the long term it could be beneficial given the way that deep pockets can currently improve outcomes - which is why people will spend the money. Like the famous case in which the Guardian had to race to beat the plaintiff to Carter-Ruck over alleged libel.
Why on earth would the performance not be transferred to the conference call, I'm sure the QCs voice can be made to sound more sincere & serious, the face more trustworthy, the lighting more flattering.
Just like any TV production in fact. (not like last years BBC mumbleathons)
I'd expect younger lawyers would be more likely to be able to organise getting the kind of equipment YouTube stars always chat about having?
Curious how useful video is without eye contact, harder to interpret body language without a lot of practice. I guess we'll have the practice! But wonder if just audio - and indeed document sharing - would be fine or even better for cases in reality?
For the legal system to drag itself out of the 18thC is a pandemic with the worst affected being elderly.
To be serious for a moment though, in the long term everyone being in the same courtroom needs to remain the default position, the current exceptions have been instituted carefully and normally someone has their liberty is at risk.
I was at a magistrates court this morning and I overheard a conversation where a man was discussing who would cover this area and who would cover outer areas as from tomorrow they will only be dealing with custody cases. (cases where they are already in prison or at police station and brought to the court)
...you know what's going to happen.
Somewhere around 18 months down the line, some smart-arsed agitprop lawyer is going to convince some senile judge out to make one last impact on common law before he goes completely gaga that some mouldering statute from 1522 can be interpreted to allow his client's appeal on a technicality.
Presto. Every "electronic" conviction invalid.
But as ever, the information coming from the courts is too little and very late. The HMCTS web site still says (at 16.27 on 24.03.20) "As long as you, or the people who have to come with you, do not have confirmed or possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection or do not need to self-isolate in line with NHS advice, you should continue to attend courts and tribunals as planned, unless informed otherwise".
It's all very well for the senior judiciary to change their minds after everyone has been sent home, but some of us are struggling on rural bandwidth and unable to get into our office emails let alone get hold of documents from the doc management system. It's definitely not going to cope with a 2 hour skype call.
As important as civil justice is, I cannot see why they cannot take the sensible approach at the moment of closing the civil courts to all except the most urgent cases, which can be dealt with on a case by case basis i.e. if you have something that really cannot wait, you contact the court to get it heard (much as has been done during High Court vacations for donkeys years).
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