Courts service unveils £24m plan to expand video hearings system nationwide

Written by Sam Trendall on 22 May 2023 in News

HMCTS reveals remote processes have become an ‘integral part’ of the justice system following the coronavirus crisis

Credit: Crown Copyright/Open Government Licence v3.0

HM Courts and Tribunals and Service has unveiled multimillion-pound ambitions to improve its core service for conducting hearings via conference and expand the platform nationally across the justice system.

The service, which is part of the Ministry of Justice, has published a procurement notice seeking a supplier to fulfil a £24m engagement to support work on the courts agency’s Video Hearings Service (VHS). The videoconferencing tool was launched in 2020 in response to the growing need for remote hearings, in light of the restrictions placed on social contact during the coronavirus crisis.

According to guidance documents published on GOV.UK, VHS is a “bespoke” service developed to serve the needs of the justice system by “replicating the formality and experience of a court or tribunal hearing”. Since its creation, it has been used to deliver more than 7,000 hearings across over 700 organisations.

HMCTS now intends to improve and expand the platform with the ultimate goal that the system will be used across the courts landscape, replacing any other technologies that might currently be in use to deliver remote hearings.

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The supplier will be expected to “provide a videoconferencing facility… and develop an interface with a front end application already developed by HMCTS – to form a Video Hearings Service”.

Over the course of an initial three-year contract – plus two potential one-year extensions – the chosen firm will “will be required to host and manage the video engine and the interface, provide hosting for test and development environments, and manage and provide an 0800-telephone service for users accessing the service by telephone”, according to the contract notice.

“VHS is HMCTS’ strategic platform for remote hearings and it is intended to substantially replace the use of other video conferencing systems in the judicial environment,” it said. “VHS is currently used on a relatively small scale and the intention is to enhance the existing service and roll it out across the judicial estate.”

The notice added: “The capability to enable remote hearings, irrespective of platform, was a significant component of HMCTS’s Covid response and ongoing recovery. Conducting remote hearings is now an integral part of daily business and the benefits are widely acknowledged.”

Suppliers interested in bidding for the contract are first required to sign “an Ethical Wall Agreement and a Confidentiality Agreement to access the procurement documents”, which must then be completed and submitted by 4pm on 13 July.

Firms that have signed the necessary documents will be invited to attend a private event, held online on 26 May, where HMCTS will provide more information about its plans.


About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology. He can be reached on


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