https://insidehmcts.blog.gov.uk/2018/02/15/video-hearings-can-make-a-difference-for-court-and-tribunal-users/

Video hearings can make a difference for court and tribunal users


[English] - [Cymraeg]

One important part of our overall reform programme to build a more modern, accessible and efficient justice system, is to enable our courts to make greater use of video technology.

Of course, video is now commonplace in many parts of the justice system. For many years, vulnerable witnesses have been able to give evidence by video, and defendants often appear remotely via video links from prison in early hearings.

In civil proceedings too, participants appearing via video link has been permitted since the Access to Justice Act in 1999.

Yet with increasing sophistication in the technology available, we believe it can play an even greater role in the future and in particular, could enable some hearings to take place without the need for a physical courtroom altogether.

I should stress at this point that fully video hearings can and will only take place where the court or tribunal considers that it is in the interests of justice. We won’t be mandating them - and they will not be used for non-summary criminal trials. We think they will be particularly appropriate for various kinds of ‘progress’ hearings – those which principally involve legal professionals making sure all is in place for the next stage of the case, or agreeing how matters will be conducted. But there are also some cases involving the public for which we believe that fully video hearings could make justice more accessible, by making it easier to attend hearings and reducing the time taken to get there.

Enhancing access to justice is at the heart of our programme to modernise courts and tribunals. To get to the point of fully video hearings being able to be used more widely, we need to develop the evidence base, show they can work and be clear about their impact.

Last summer, our HMCTS project team set themselves two main objectives - to test whether certain types of hearings could take place equally or more efficiently using video technology and to test whether a technical solution could work effectively. These were the areas we really needed to get right, before we could even begin to bring others on board.

Testing and research with users

By October, we were able to test fully video hearings in the Immigration and Asylum Chamber using a small sample of real case management hearings. This gave the opportunity for participants in legal firms to take part by logging in from their own equipment, without needing access to specialist software. It was a successful trial and the hearings were well received by the judges, legal professionals and the Home Office presenting officers who took part.

Judge Campbell, Resident Judge at Taylor House Tribunal and Hearing Centre, commented,

What I was pleased to see and impressed with, was the clarity on the screen and that in this version it was easy to see who the parties were. I think the earlier version worked but it wasn’t quite as smooth running.

A Home Office Presenting Officer who also took part in one of the hearings commented,

My hearing was a Case Management Review (CMR) and it was a great format for that. Directions can be given and documents checked. There really is no need for everyone to be in one room for a case management hearing. Also, it would have an advantage for the Home Office as we wouldn’t need to transport so many documents to the court for the hearings.

This proof of concept has been a real eye opener on what can be achieved when we get the technology right. It has involved numerous challenges and complexities, but our discussions with participating legal firms are revealing significant opportunities for them, including being able to attend multiple hearings in a day without having to travel between court buildings.

Over the past three months we’ve also worked with academics who are leaders in the field of technology in justice systems across the globe. With their help, we’ve looked at what other countries have done, what we want to replicate and what we can do better. We’ll continue to work with them to better understand how we can make more improvements.

What’s next for Fully Video Hearings

The next step is to try using fully video hearings with members of the public. Testing in the Tax Tribunal is due to start in the Spring, with people being invited to take part shortly, and we’ll be looking very carefully at how it works – the advantages, and convenience, but also any issues that we need to address as we move forward. We have, of course, been working very closely with judges and legal professionals as we develop and run these trials, and will continue to do so as we consider the next places where it might be good to trial this approach. We’re interested both in which types of cases might best be heard in this way, and which types of users might benefit most.

Above all, we’ll continue to listen and engage, to make sure we design and deliver change that really makes a positive difference for people using our courts and tribunals; and we’ll stick to the principle of trying things at small scale, testing and learning at every stage before moving on.

I’m keen to hear your thoughts and views on this blog post – please use the comment facility at the bottom on this page or send me an email.


[English] - [Cymraeg]

Gall gwrandawiadau fideo wneud gwahaniaeth i ddefnyddwyr y llysoedd a’r tribiwnlysoedd

Un rhan bwysig o’n rhaglen ddiwygio i ddatblygu system cyfiawnder mwy modern, hygyrch ac effeithlon, yw gwneud hi’n bosibl i’n llysoedd wneud mwy o ddefnydd o dechnoleg fideo.

Wrth gwrs, mae technoleg fideo bellach yn rhywbeth cyffredin mewn sawl rhan o’r system cyfiawnder. Ers nifer o flynyddoedd, mae tystion bregus wedi gallu rhoi tystiolaeth drwy gyswllt fideo, ac mae diffynyddion yn aml yn ymddangos o bell drwy gysylltiadau fideo o’r carchar mewn gwrandawiadau cynnar.

Mewn achosion sifil hefyd, mae cyfranogwyr wedi gallu ymddangos drwy gyswllt fideo ers i Ddeddf Mynediad at Gyfiawnder 1999 ddod i rym.

Ond gyda llawer iawn o ddatblygiadau yn y dechnoleg sydd ar gael, credwn y gallai hyn gael ei ddefnyddio fwy byth yn y dyfodol ac yn benodol, gallai alluogi rhai gwrandawiadau gael eu gwrando heb yr angen am ystafell llys draddodiadol o gwbl.

Dylwn bwysleisio ar y pwynt hwn mai dim ond pan fydd y llys neu’r tribiwnlys yn ystyried ei fod er lles cyfiawnder y gall ac y bydd gwrandawiadau fideo yn cael eu cynnal. Ni fyddwn yn mynnu eu bod yn cael eu cynnal. Credwn y byddant yn eithriadol o briodol ar gyfer amryw fathau o wrandawiadau ‘cynnydd’ - y rhai hynny sydd bennaf yn cynnwys unigolion proffesiynol cyfreithiol yn sicrhau bod popeth mewn trefn ar gyfer cam nesaf yr achos, neu’n cytuno ar sut i ymdrin â materion. Ond mae yna hefyd rai achosion sy’n ymwneud â’r cyhoedd yr ydym yn credu y gallai gwrandawiadau dros gyswllt fideo wneud cyfiawnder yn fwy hygyrch, drwy ei wneud yn haws i unigolion fynychu gwrandawiadau a lleihau'r amser a gymerir i’w mynychu.

Mae gwella mynediad at gyfiawnder wrth wraidd ein rhaglen i foderneiddio’r llysoedd a’r tribiwnlysoedd. I gyrraedd y pwynt lle all gwrandawiadau dros gyswllt fideo gael eu defnyddio'n fwy helaeth, mae angen i ni gasglu tystiolaeth i ddangos y gallant weithio a bod yn glir ynghylch eu heffaith.

Haf diwethaf, mi wnaeth tîm prosiect GLlTEM osod dau brif nod i’w hun - i brofi p'un a fyddai gwrando mathau penodol o wrandawiadau gan ddefnyddio technoleg fideo yn fwy neu'r un mor effeithlon ac i brofi p’un a allai datrysiad technegol weithio’n effeithiol. Rhain oedd y materion oedd angen i ni eu cael yn iawn, cyn i ni hyd yn oed ystyried materion eraill.

Profi ac ymchwil gyda defnyddwyr

Erbyn mis Hydref, roeddem yn gallu profi gwrandawiadau fideo yn llwyr yn y Siambr Mewnfudo a Lloches gan ddefnyddio sampl fach o wrandawiadau rheoli achos go iawn. Roedd hwn yn gyfle i gyfranogwyr o gwmnïau cyfreithiol gymryd rhan drwy fewngofnodi gan ddefnyddio eu hoffer eu hunain, heb orfod defnyddio meddalwedd arbenigol. Roedd yr ymarfer hwn yn llwyddiannus ac roedd y barnwyr, y gweithwyr proffesiynol cyfreithiol a swyddogion y Swyddfa Gartref a gymerodd ran yn hapus gyda'r canlyniadau.

Meddai Barnwr Campbell, Barnwr Preswyl yng Nghanolfan Gwrandawiadau Tribiwnlys Taylor House:

Beth wnaeth fy mhlesio a chreu argraff arnaf i, oedd pa mor glir oedd y sgrin a'i fod yn hawdd gweld pwy oedd y partïon gyda’r fersiwn hon. Credaf fod y fersiwn cynharach wedi gweithio ond nad oedd mor llyfn.

Mi wnaeth Swyddog Cyflwyno’r Swyddfa Gartref hefyd gymryd rhan yn un o’r gwrandawiadau a dywedodd:

Adolygiad Rheoli Achos oedd fy ngwrandawiad i ac roedd yn fformat ardderchog ar gyfer hyn. Roedd modd rhoi cyfarwyddiadau a gwirio dogfennau. Nid oes angen i bawb fod mewn un ystafell ar gyfer gwrandawiad rheoli achos. Hefyd, byddai'n fanteisiol i'r Swyddfa Gartref oherwydd ni fyddai angen i ni anfon gymaint o ddogfennau i'r llys ar gyfer y gwrandawiadau.

Mae’r ymarfer hwn wedi bod yn agoriad llygaid o ran beth ellir ei gyflawni pan rydym yn cael y dechnoleg yn iawn. Rydym wedi wynebu nifer o heriau a chymhlethdodau, ond mae ein trafodaethau gyda’r cwmnïau cyfreithiol sy’n rhan o’r broses wedi amlygu llawer iawn o gyfleoedd iddyn nhw hefyd, gan gynnwys gallu mynychu nifer o wrandawiadau mewn diwrnod heb orfod teithio o un adeilad llys i’r llall.

Dros y tri mis diwethaf rydym hefyd wedi gweithio gydag academyddion sy’n arweinyddion yn y maes technoleg ar gyfer systemau cyfiawnder ar draws y byd. Gyda’u cymorth nhw, rydym wedi edrych ar beth mae gwledydd eraill wedi’i wneud, beth ydym eisiau ei ddyblygu a beth allwn wneud yn well. Byddwn yn parhau i weithio gyda nhw i ddeall yn well sut allwn wneud mwy o welliannau.

Beth yw’r cam nesaf ar gyfer Gwrandawiadau Fideo

Y cam nesaf yw ceisio defnyddio gwrandawiadau fideo gydag aelodau’r cyhoedd. Bydd unigolion yn cael gwahoddiad yn fuan i gymryd rhan mewn profion yn y Tribiwnlys Treth yn ystod mis Mawrth, a byddwn yn edrych yn ofalus iawn ar sut bydd hyn yn gweithio - y manteision a pha mor hwylus ydyw, yn ogystal ag unrhyw beth sydd angen sylw wrth i ni symud ymlaen. Rydym, wrth gwrs, wedi bod yn gweithio’n agos iawn â barnwyr a gweithwyr proffesiynol cyfreithiol wrth i ni ddatblygu a chynnal y profion hyn, a byddwn yn parhau i wneud hyn wrth i ni ystyried y meysydd eraill lle gallwn dreialu hyn. Mae gennym ddiddordeb yn y math o achosion y byddai’n gallu cael eu gwrando fel hyn, a pha fath o ddefnyddwyr fyddai’n elwa fwyaf ohonynt.

Ond yn anad dim arall, byddwn yn parhau i wrando ac ymgysylltu ag eraill er mwyn sicrhau ein bod yn dylunio ac yn cyflwyno newidiadau sydd wirioneddol yn gwneud gwahaniaeth positif i unigolion sy'n defnyddio ein llysoedd a'n tribiwnlysoedd, a byddwn yn glynu wrth yr egwyddor o roi pethau ar waith ar raddfa fechan, eu profi a dysgu ohonynt cyn symud ymlaen at y nesaf.

Rwy’n awyddus i glywed eich barn a'ch sylwadau ar y blog hwn - defnyddiwch y cyfleuster ar gyfer gwneud sylwadau ar waelod y dudalen hon neu anfonwch e-bost ataf.

7 comments

  1. Comment by Frank le Duc posted on

    How can the press and public see justice being done? Which members of the press were notified about the test or pilot hearings? Or were no members of the press notified? Can the press dial in? Which courts or tribunals were involved in the cases in question?

    • Replies to Frank le Duc>

      Comment by HMCTS Communications Team posted on

      For the pilot, the Judge will sit in a traditional courtroom, allowing press and public to attend as per current arrangements.

  2. Comment by Jurgen Vlek posted on

    Now if you can also tackle the excessive paper document burden then that would help! Indeed a critical requirement is to reinstate the free legal service in courts accessible by video link for anyone to consult without paying the frankly ridiculous legal fees, particularly for foreign attendees such as myself. Many thanks

  3. Comment by P Taylor posted on

    Excellent news

  4. Comment by John Fassenfelt posted on

    Does this mean that Summary Trials in magistrates courts are not exempt from the use of video links for all participants.
    John Fassenfelt J.P.

  5. Comment by Kevin Duffy posted on

    In the event of any summary criminal matters becoming video only - "....and they will not be used for non-summary criminal trials..." - please can you confirm that press access to live proceedings will be fully emulated and also indicate how this would be accomplished.
    Kevin Duffy
    Lecturer In Journalism
    Module Leader in Essential Media Law And Regulation
    University Of Central Lancashire

    • Replies to Kevin Duffy>

      Comment by HMCTS Communications Team posted on

      For the pilot, the Judge will sit in a traditional courtroom, allowing press and public to attend as per current arrangements.