During lockdown the Family Courts have adapted rapidly to the use of remote technology resulting in many interim and case management hearings being able to proceed.
With lockdown restrictions now beginning to ease, various local Judges, along with Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, have published roadmaps and frameworks which map out plans for the future in this ‘new normal’ world, but the necessities of social distancing mean the Courts’ capacity to accommodate in-person hearings will still have limitations and remote hearings will still be a day-to-day necessity.
Many of the publications explore the options available for hearings to happen smoothly and effectively. Recently this has been via Skype, Microsoft teams, Cloud Video Platform but fully remote hearings have advantages and disadvantages, as explored by pupil Claire Garton in her recent article.
The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory (NFJO) report, published in May, Remote hearings in the family justice system: a rapid consultation which was accompanied by a consultation report by Dr Byrom What we know about the impact of remote hearings on access to justice: a rapid evidence, highlighted concerns and issues with the remote Family Court, including a range of issues relating to parties being unable to participate in proceedings effectively. Consultation respondents noted a lack of face-to-face contact created difficulties in parties’ communication with their legal representative during fully remote hearings and can often leave parties feeling unsupported or unclear on what is happening. However, we have experienced how the introduction of ‘hybrid hearings’ has changed this.
Over the past few weeks we have seen an increasing number of hybrid hearings – part remote and part in-person hearings, which we have hosted within Chambers. Able to take place from our own facilities, Counsel are able to liaise with, and take instructions from, their clients throughout the duration of the hearing in person whilst maintaining a safe distance.
The space within our large conference rooms allow all social distancing guidelines to be adhered to whilst facilitating an effective environment for our Counsel to provide advice and support to their clients. With remote video rooms available at both our Nottingham and Leicester sites, Chambers has been able to offer our Counsel and clients safe and secure facilities to use for all types of remote hearings and prison links as well as forms of alternative dispute resolution, including mediations.
For more information on the remote video facilities and conference rooms at KCH Garden Square, please contact our clerks who will be happy to assist.