International project launched to share best practice on remote court hearings

Legal futurologist Professor Richard Susskind unveils initiative to co-ordinate efforts to use technology to keep courts open
Pic of court and tribunal service logo

The UK court agency is one of the backers of Remote Courts Worldwide. Shutterstock

A UK government-backed initiative has been launched to share experiences of using remote working technology to help keep courts around the world operating in the teeth of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Remote Courts Worldwide is being spearheaded by leading legal futurologist Professor Richard Susskind, president of the Society for Computers and Law, which is co-ordinating the project with the support of  Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service and the industry-led Law Tech Delivery Panel.

It aims to help justice workers including judges, lawyers, officials, litigants and court technologies share best practice on the use of remote alternatives to traditional court hearings.

Launching the project, Susskind noted that alternatives to hearings being heard in person were being rapidly introduced across the world deploying audio, video and paper-based procedures with new methods and techniques being adopted “at remarkable speed”.

But he warned of “the danger that the wheel is being reinvented and that there is unnecessary duplication of effort across the world”. 

He added: “In response, this site offers a systematic way of remote-court innovators and people who work in the justice system to exchange news of operational systems, as well as of plans, ideas, policies, protocols, techniques, and safeguards.”

The site currently has updates from Australia, Canada, the UK, India, Singapore and the US. Posts include information on the first use of Skype to hear an entire case at the UK’s Court of Protection and a decision by the Supreme Court in Singapore to use the Zoom platform for video and telephone hearings before the duty registrar.

Susan Acland-Hood, CEO of HM Courts & Tribunals Service, said: “We’re increasing use of video & audio hearings & welcome this initiative to share our expertise & draw on the experiences of other justice systems across the world responding to the crisis.” 

The project is tapping into the community that was established at the First International Forum on Online Courts, which was held in London in December 2018 and attended by 300 delegates from 26 countries.

“None of us imagined then that we would need to change so quickly. But we must seize the moment and come together to accelerate the development of new ways of continuing to deliver just outcomes for court users," said Susskind.

Writing in The Global Legal Post on 27 March, Arizona-based legal blogger and criminal defence lawyer Stewart Salwin noted how the Arizona courts, like courts across the US, had implemented ‘monumental changes to the judicial process’ to accommodate social distancing.

He added: “As a defence attorney, I haven’t seen any adverse effects on my ability to represent clients. “

Further reading on the Covid-19 pandemic

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