When is it fair for there to be a remote hearing?

By Zen Thompson

Solicitor, Mediator and Arbitrator

The court is wrestling with several issues at the moment as a result of the lockdown, exacerbated by systemic problems which existed before the lockdown began. The court had already been suffering with being able to deal with a caseload with a reduced court staff following the government austerity measures. Steps had started to move cases online, but there is now an issue of not only how to deal with existing cases fairly but how the court will catch up with the backlog created by many cases being cancelled at the last minute when the lockdown began.

The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew MacFarlane, dealt with an appeal recently in the case of Re P on the issue of whether a case should be dealt with remotely or be delayed until after the lockdown is over. The President had to look at the fairness of parents being questioned by video link and felt that it would be difficult for this to be dealt with fairly. The approach now seems to be that if a hearing does not involve the direct questioning of parents, then it can be dealt with remotely, but where parents are being questioned the court is likely to decide to delay the hearing until after the lockdown is over. However, there are some judges who are trying hybrid hearings, with one parent being in court to be questioned on one day, and the other parent in court another day.

At Nockolds we have a depth of experience in dealing with court hearings and have been involved in many cases recently which have been dealt with in different ways by the court as a result of the lockdown. If you have any questions about the issues raised, or would like to speak to us further about your situation, please contact one of our family solicitors, Zen Thompson, on 01279 712553 or zthompson@nockolds.co.uk.