Court and tribunal hearings and Coronavirus (Covid 19)

This Know-how will help you understand more about hearings that happen by phone or video and where to go for up to date information on how the Coronavirus outbreak might affect your hearing. More and more court hearings are taking place over the phone and by video because of Coronavirus.
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Court and tribunal hearings and Coronavirus

Our top tips!

  • Make sure you read all the information from the court about your hearing carefully so you know what you need to do on the day, or if you are stuck, get help in time.
  • Make sure you are all set up and ready to go on the day of the hearing well in advance of the time that the hearing is due to start.
  • If you do get a lawyer to represent you make sure you have time to speak with them before the hearing and that you work out a way to communicate with them during the hearing, for example by text.
  • If you have problems during the hearing make sure you say so, but do this politely. If it is by phone you could interrupt by saying something like ‘I am sorry to interrupt but I can’t hear ….’ If it is by video you could put up your hand to get the attention of the judge.

Since the outbreak of Coronavirus (Covid 19) the court service has been working to get a lot more hearings up and running without people needing to go to court. The situation is changing all the time so if you are expecting to have a court or tribunal hearing in the next few days, weeks or even months the court will contact you by email or phone to let you know what is being arranged. You can also find information and guidance on the gov.uk website.

The judge will decide if your hearing should happen over the phone or by video. They will take into account any problems you might face by the hearing going ahead by phone or video. So it is really important to contact the court and tell them about anything that might make a phone or video hearing difficult for you such as a disability or the need for an interpreter. If you have Coronavirus and feel you are too ill to take part in your hearing by phone or by video you need to ask the court to delay the hearing. There is information on how to do this on the gov.uk website.

If you do need to take part in a phone or video hearing working out how to use the technology may be new to you. To join by phone or video, you will need:

  • a phone or a computer with internet access,
  • a webcam and microphone (most laptops and all smart phones have these built in),
  • a quiet space where you will not be disturbed during the hearing and where no one else can overhear.

The court will contact you to tell you how to join the hearing. The court service has a useful guide on what to do if your hearing has to take place by phone or video call. 

If you are told by the court service that your hearing is going to be by phone or video call and you have problems with sorting out the technology to take part you can get help by calling 0330 8089405.

For more information on how to contact the court service during the Coronavirus pandemic you can look at their advice on contacting HMCTS during Coronavirus.

The court service has temporarily closed some courts and others are open just for staff. So, if you do have a hearing that goes ahead at an actual court building it may not be in the court building you have been to before or that is nearest to you. It may even be held in a building that isn’t usually used as a court building. The court will contact you to tell you about where you need to go. If you want to check what is happening at your local court you can take a look at the Courts and Tribunals tracker list which is updated regularly.

If you are told by court staff that your hearing is going to take place in a court building you will find it looks different to how it might had done before. To make it as safe as possible there will be limits on how many people can be in the court building at one time and you will need to keep as much distance as possible between you and everyone else there in the waiting room and in the hearing itself.

Cases in the civil court

If you are involved in a case in the civil court and the other side has a lawyer it is likely that the court will say the shorter hearings need to happen over the phone or by video. Usually the other side's lawyer is asked by the court to make all the arrangements so that it goes smoothly on the day. Due to the Coronavirus outbreak the court is getting in touch with people by email or phone to explain the process and make sure you are set up to join the hearing when it takes place. The court service has a useful guide about joining hearings by video call or phone. 

If you want to read more about the standard rules (written before Coronavirus) on the use of phone and video for civil hearings you can read the civil procedure rules practice direction 23A - applications.

Cases in the family court

If you are involved in a family case you may also have hearings by phone or via video, especially now due to Coronavirus. The court will contact you by email or phone to explain the process to you. The court service have a useful guide about joining hearings by video call or phone that will help you know more about what to expect. 

The Transparency Project has written a detailed guide on what to expect if you are involved in a family case and the hearing has to take place by phone or video.

If you want to read more about the standard rules (before Coronavirus) on telephone hearings in family cases you can read the family procedure rules practice direction 18A

Employment Tribunal cases

If you are involved in an employment tribunal hearing you can take a look a user help guide about what is likely to happen with your case because of Coronavirus.  

You might also find answers to some of your questions in a frequently asked questions document about employment tribunal hearings during the Coronavirus pandemic.

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