With lawyers at home, hearings have gone virtual. Will remote justice outlast the crisis?
As a result of the pandemic, the UK courts system and legal profession — usually a bastion of tradition and hierarchy — have been dragged into the 21st century as hearings across the country take place virtually and a handful of crown courts hold jury trials spread across two video-linked courtrooms with participants carefully spaced apart.
For some advocates, the virtual experience has been mixed. At the start of lockdown Oliver Kirk, a criminal barrister, used Skype from his living room to make an application at Basildon Crown Court and realised just how much he could cut down his travel time.
He was told to download Skype and contact the court. A clerk then carried the laptop through to a judge. “I realised it saved me around two and a half to three hours of travelling, getting to court and waiting around,” he says. “I think we have all realised the vast amount of time we spend schlepping around the country for a five-minute hearing.”
However, he says that for other complex cases such as speaking to a client who is being held in prison awaiting trial, remote courts have been “far from ideal”.