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Advice on how to join phone and video court hearings

Her Majesty’s Court Service is increasing the use of phone, video and other technology to continue as many hearings as possible during the coronavirus pandemic. Below we've provided some advice on preparing and joining a phone and video court hearing. Further information can be found on GOV.UK. 

The Court will contact you to let you know if your hearing will take place by video or phone. The court will also confirm this information in your hearing notice. The notice will also confirm the time and date of the hearing.The judge will decide if the hearing should take place by video or phone if they’re satisfied it’s in the interests of justice for everyone involved.

Support available before your hearing

The Court can provide support to help you take part in your hearing if you need it, for example, an interpreter or make reasonable adjustments if you have a disability.

Support to join the hearing

Tell the Court and Hyde if you need support to join the hearing or if there’s a reason you cannot join, such as:

  • no access to a computer or mobile device
  • no access or limited access to the internet
  • a disability that means you need help with the video hearing

Use the contact details in your hearing notice to contact the Court. The Court will consider your request and do everything possible to make sure you’ll be able to participate in the hearing. This could involve you joining in a different way. If this is not possible, the Court may postpone the hearing.

Get legal help

You may want to get legal advice and find out what legal help is available before your hearing. You can check if you are eligible for legal aid or find out about affordable legal help.

Have someone support you during your hearing

You can ask for someone to provide support to you during your remote hearing, whether it’s by phone or video. They could be part of a charitable organisation, local government service, a friend or family member. They cannot be someone involved in the case.You will need to ask the permission of the court for them to join. They can’t give legal advice or speak on your behalf but can provide emotional support and practical information about the process.

Preparing for your video or phone hearing

When you receive the hearing notice, use the contact details to tell the Court as soon as possible:
  • your preferred contact details
  • if you would like support or cannot join the hearing,
  • if you want to have someone with you who is not acting as your legal representative, for example, a support worker.

The judge will consider your request and they will decide how the hearing will go ahead.

Before your hearing

You must:

  • decide where you’ll sit for the hearing, it should be a space that is quiet and private
  • let people who share the space know as you must not be interrupted during the hearing
  • make sure the device you’ll use is fully charged or plugged in, so you do not get cut off during the hearing
  • have any documents you’ll need for the hearing ready beforehand
  • turn off your mobile phone or anything else that could be distracting you
  • be ready at least 15 minutes before the hearing

If you’re taking part in a hearing with a legal representative, agree how you will communicate confidentially during the hearing. The Court will ask you to take an oath or make an affirmation when giving evidence. An oath is a promise, to tell the truth. If you want to make this with a holy book or scripture, make sure you have it with you.

If you’re joining by video:

  • check you have the right software for your device, if needed, and that you know how to join the hearing
  • test the equipment, so you know it works
  • dress as if you were coming into a court building
  • have something plain behind you like a blank wall
  • sit with light in front of you, so your face is not in shadow
  • make sure we can see your face and shoulders

During the hearing

Remote hearings will follow the same process as they would in a building. At the start of the hearing, the judge will explain what will happen. The judge may ask questions to make sure you’ve understood. It’s important that if you do not understand something or need a break, you let the judge know. To avoid disrupting the hearing, mute your microphone if possible, so the Court does not hear background noise or conversation. When your video is on, you’ll be seen at all times so be mindful of your body language and behaviour whether you’re speaking or not.

Rules

Everyone must treat remote hearings as seriously as if they were in a court or tribunal building. Please follow the rules and the Court’s instructions.

Recording and transcripts

The process for recording video hearings will be the same as for hearings held in a court building. You can apply for a transcript when hearings are recorded.It’s a criminal offence to record, publish and take pictures of any court hearing without authorisation.