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Domestic Abuse Victims latest to test Video Court Hearings

By John Hyde

Court chiefs and lawyers have hailed the early success of fully-video hearings for domestic abuse cases.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service confirmed today that video technology has been used in six cases where a victim has made an injunction application against a partner.

The cases were chosen specifically to allow vulnerable people to appear before the court, and are enabled using a video link from a computer in their solicitor’s office. As well as preventing those involved from having to travel to court and appear before a judge, HMCTS says video hearings allow the injunction application to be heard more quickly.

Justice minister Lucy Frazer QC said: ‘We are hearing that, even in the early stages…fully video hearings are having a positive effect and ensuring the justice system is supporting people at one of the most difficult times in their lives.’

The testing so far has involved two law firms representing clients whose cases are being heard at Manchester Civil Justice Centre. Suitable cases are dependent on judicial discretion and those taking part must have legal representation.

Jane Campbell, a partner at family law specialist Makin Dixon, said accessing the hearing in a more familiar environment made a real difference to a client who was one of the initial test cases. ‘The victim was too scared to go home last night and doing this over video has really made a positive impact,’ said Campbell. ‘The video hearing has the gravitas of a court room. The interview suite is set up with all the necessary tools to swear in a witness and the client gets to see the judge and observe the process.’

This is the latest step towards the introduction of video hearings in the England and Wales justice system, where all parties appear remotely before a judge based in the court. The current pilot follows testing in the tax tribunal last year and more recently applications to set aside a default judgment and, in family law, first-direction appointments.

(Courtesy: Law Society Gazette)