Almost half of criminal hearings held virtually last month
Audio and video widely used, government stats reveal
Credit: Clara Molden/PA
Almost half of all hearings in criminal courts across England and Wales last month were conducted remotely, the government has revealed.
Data from HM Courts and Tribunals Service shows that fewer than two in five cases – 39% – that were heard during September took place predominantly face-to-face. Almost half, meanwhile, were mainly conducted remotely, using audio or video technology.
This comprised 25% that were held primarily via video, and a further 21% that were hosted chiefly on an audio platform.
The remaining 15% were not categorised.
Shortly after lockdown came into effect across the UK, the judicial system made a large-scale switch to a hybrid system, in which about 157 courts and tribunal facilities continued to run essential face-to-face cases, 124 were adapted to host video and audio hearings, and 109 were shut entirely.
The move came after the Coronavirus Act emergency legislation passed by parliament in March had made legal provisions to “enable the expansion of the availability of video and audio link in various criminal proceedings, including full video and audio hearings in certain circumstances, and public participation in relation to these and other court and tribunal proceedings conducted by audio and video.”
Speaking in March, Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett said: “An extraordinary amount of hard work has gone into keeping our justice system functioning. Technology is being used creatively to ensure that many cases can continue.”
The data on the ongoing usage of virtual hearings in September was provided in a written parliamentary answer given by Baroness Scott of Bybrook, in answer to a question from fellow Conservative life peer Lord Wasserman.
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