18th September 2020

In what was a first for our contributor Seamus Gunn, the medium of Zoom was used to broadcast from the Ramelton office this morning. It led to a discussion on any advantages for the Court system using remote hearings and technology as we look to the future, post Covid pandemic. Seamus was clearly of the view that while technology has a role to play, in particular in dealing with straight forward Consent type Applications and more particularly Commercial cases where papers can be submitted and lodged in advance for consideration by the presiding Judge, who could then take submissions remotely from the representatives, that this, together with the streamlining of the court services with regard to the filing and stamping of documents would bring benefits to the efficiency of the system in the future, it would not be a replacement for the Viva Voce evidential hearings in open court. He referred to the recent English decision in the Family Law division where it was stated that “just because a hearing can be held remotely, does not mean it should be” which was a decision involving the contesting of a final care plan for a child. The Judge was of the view that a “postage stamp image” on a screen was a poor substitute to seeing that person fully present in a court room. Similar sentiment has been expressed in the High Court in this jurisdiction where it is difficult for a Judge to take a view on parties and credibility of witnesses without seeing them present before the court giving evidence. The view was that there would be no substitution for this in the future and that in any case where witnesses had to be cross examined and tested, the courtroom would be the place for this.

A wide and varied Q & A followed, which can be listened to below.