A group of barristers from the personal injury and clinical negligence practice group within Cloisters have been exploring and improving the ability to use remote video conferencing for hearings in the civil courts, such as costs and case management conferences and interlocutory applications.

Joel Donovan, Yvette Genn, Hannah Godfrey and Catriona Stirling have created a “proof of concept” video of a case management conference before a Queen’s Bench Master relating to a dispute about whether expert accommodation evidence is allowed, with a virtual bundle to which all parties are able to refer. The video demonstrates that virtual hearings are possible even for highly contentious interlocutory hearings. It is made using Microsoft Teams but other technologies hold equal potential for such virtual hearings. One particular helpful feature that they demonstrate in the video, is the use of document sharing and the very effective way in which specific passages can be highlighted when being relied on in submissions. Documents used in this way ensure that the parties and judge are all focussing on the correct document but also importantly, on the relevant passages. The speed of access will depend to some extent on the platform being used for the electronic bundle, but this demonstration shows how effective this tool can be in supporting submissions in this remote environment.

Our barristers believe that such virtual hearings will be workable in practice in a wide range of circumstances and that in many cases they will be a realistic way of ensuring that civil litigation can stay on track during the pandemic and avoiding lengthy stays of proceedings.

Other demonstrations of how remote video conferences can be used have been made by other barristers in Chambers and we invite you to refer to these for further examples of what is achievable. Please click here to see a demonstration of a mock Employment Tribunal hearing and here for a demonstration of a Virtual Settlement Meeting and Mediation.

Using remote video conferencing technology for hearings in the civil courts is a novel initiative driven by the pandemic. We therefore actively welcome comments, criticisms and ideas for further development and look forward to working with colleagues to make the best and most appropriate use of this and other remote working options for hearings in the civil courts.