Family Court Remote Hearings Update
Sir Andrew McFarlane has provided a report in relation to the effectiveness of remote hearings during the Covid-19 pandemic. Please see this HERE for more information.
Nuffield Family Justice Observatory (who are an independent organisation committed to improving the life for families by providing data to the family justice system) began carrying out a study three weeks ago to examine views after hearings were being held remotely rather than face-to-face.
The data was gathered from families involved in the family justice system and professionals who work within the family justice system (including Judges, Cafcass workers, barristers etc). The data gathered was from responses from over 1,000 participants.
The report shows that responses were consistently balanced in relation to both positive and negations reactions to the remote hearings. As a whole, many believe that the remote hearings were justified for certain cases and some also believed that this could work for hearings in the future.
However, it seemed that many were also in agreement that there were concerns that remote hearings cannot work for all types of hearings. My first thought would be final hearings. How would a person be sworn in to give evidence? When an FDR is going to take place, how do the opponents and their legal representatives have pre-hearing discussions?
Currently, remote hearings are taking place by way of telephone or video (usually Skype) but, by reading the report above, it seems that many generally feel that video hearings are more effective than telephone hearings, and this is something that I agree with.
This makes me query whether this will change the family justice system moving forward. Will remote hearings become more common in the future, and how will a Court determine whether the hearing should be heard remotely or face-to-face?
The other question should no doubt be – will remote hearings reduce the backlog of the Courts? Or will this only cause greater backlog?
There are many questions that many people are currently asking and hopefully more information will be provided in the near future.
The information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and you should take full and comprehensive legal advice on your individual circumstances by a fully qualified Solicitor before you embark on any course of action.
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