Emergency law to provide for digitisation of death registration and video courtrooms

Written by Sam Trendall on 19 March 2020 in News
News

The incoming coronavirus bill aims to allow for more measures to be taken remotely

Credit: PA

Government’s incoming coronavirus bill aims to allow for the digitisation of various processes, including electronic death registration and virtual courtroom proceedings.

The emergency legislation, which is expected to be rushed onto the statute books without the usual parliamentary rigmarole, covers a range of quickfire measures to help government and the public meet the challenges of the coronavirus crisis.

One of the aims of the of the bill is to allow authorities to “streamline the death-management process” if necessary. This may mean permitting extended opening hours for crematoriums, for example, or allowing additional support from those outside the funeral sector.


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Government also intends to modify the process of registering a death, to ensure that public health is best protected while not compromising the extent to which “the deceased are treated with the utmost respect and dignity”.

The bill will thus make provisions to “enable electronic transmission of documents that currently have to be physically presented in order to certify the registration of a death”.

It will also expand the number of people that can register a death and, in many cases, remove the need for a coroner to be notified.

Elsewhere, the law aims to allow for greater use of technology in court proceedings.

“It will… 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,” the government said. “The measures will enable a wider range of proceedings to be carried out by video, so that courts can continue to function and remain open to the public, without the need for participants to attend in person. This will give judges more options for avoiding adjournments and keeping business moving through the courts to help reduce delays in the administration of justice and alleviate the impact on families, victims, witnesses and defendants.”

One of the bill’s headline measures will see police officers given the power to detain anyone infected with Covid-19 who is not self-isolating or remaining in quarantine.

If they wish to appeal, those who are thus detained will also benefit from the move to virtual justice, according to the government.

“Video and audio link in court proceedings… would include magistrates’ court hearings taking place by phone or by video, should an individual appeal restriction of movement due to quarantine measures,” it said. “This will ensure that an appeal takes place but will not require a person to break quarantine in order to attend in person.”

 

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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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