Information about how HMCTS uses telephone and video technology.
If you’ve been asked to join a hearing by telephone or video, see our guide on what to expect and how to join your hearing
Running courts and tribunals is an essential public service. Audio and video technology plays a vital part in the justice system. The judiciary encourages the use of telephone and video to support hearings.
Making new technology available
We make the best possible use of existing technology in the courts, working to increase and improve how we use audio and video technology to support hearings.
Hearings take place by:
- Teleconferencing, for example using BTMeetMe
- Videoconferencing, for example using our cloud video platform (CVP)
We’re also expanding our video hearings service.
Using video and audio technology in courts
Audio and video hearings are subject to the relevant jurisdictional rules and practice directions.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 expanded the availability of video and audio link in court proceedings, including:
- allowing specific civil applications (relating to infectious diseases / coronavirus) in the magistrates’ court to take place by phone or by video
- expanding the availability of video and audio link in various criminal proceedings, including fully video and audio hearings in certain circumstances
- allowing the public to participate in court and tribunal proceedings through audio and video
The measures allow a wider range of proceedings to be carried out by video and audio. The judiciary will determine how a hearing is conducted.
Remand cases can also be heard by video where this meets the interests of justice, with defendants appearing from police custody suites, prisons and youth custody facilities.
A national cross agency working group for crime is looking at increasing the capacity of our existing systems to introduce new capabilities and to provide guidance to staff, judiciary and users.
Open justice is a fundamental principle in our courts and tribunals system. In considering the use of telephone and video technology, the judiciary consider the principles of open justice. Judges may determine that a hearing should be held in private if this is necessary to secure the proper administration of justice. A range of measures supports the principle of open justice:
- access to open hearings if/where a public gallery is available, or a third party may join the hearing remotely
- transcripts for hearings in those jurisdictions where they are available now. Any party or interested person is able request a transcript. Judges may direct that the transcript be made available at public expense where appropriate
- with the permission of the judge, an audio recording of a hearing can be made available to be listened to in a court building
- with the permission of the judge, in jurisdictions where this is already done, the notes of the hearing can be made available on request
- publication of the outcome of High Court and Court of Appeal hearings, orders or results
- publication of courts and tribunals lists, in most instance online
- access to hearings and information to accredited media, such as the provision of listing and results information in magistrates’ courts via email
Requests from the media and others to observe a hearing remotely should be made to the court in advance to allow for inclusion during the hearing set-up. Please contact the court. This is not available for criminal jury trials in the Crown Court.
Publication of courts and tribunals lists
HMCTS publishes courts and tribunals lists in different ways across jurisdictions. Lists are free to access for members of the public, though you may need to register for some.
Media access to proceedings
We’re committed to promoting media access to the work of courts and tribunals.
For physical hearings, even when many of the participants join remotely, accredited media will continue to have access to dedicated press seats as reflected in current HMCTS media guidance. Current arrangements will follow wider public health advice relating to social distancing.
Accredited journalists can put in a request to the relevant court to join a hearing remotely.
Communication between legal professionals and clients
It’s vital that people can consult their legal advisers in confidence. Existing rules allow legal visits within prisons and for telephone calls between prisoners and their legal advisers. We’re working to ensure that arrangements for conducting legal meetings by videoconference are secure and private, giving legal representatives enough time to speak to their clients.
Established prison to court video links and new video conferencing centres are the preferred method for courts and legal representatives to communicate with offenders in custody.
Cloud Video Platform (CVP) allows parties to connect to a video meeting room from an internet enabled device for a hearing to go ahead. Where necessary probation and defence consultations (including those immediately pre- and post-court) will take place by video link.
We use the Criminal Justice Secure eMail (CJSM) service to ensure defence practitioners can request and book prison to court video links and new video conferencing centres for meetings with their clients.
Where possible, probation interviews and before and after court consultations are carried out face to face but it may be necessary for these to be carried out by audio in the custody suites.
Where possible, probation interviews and before and after court consultations should be carried out by audio in the custody suites.
Where possible, probation interviews and before and after court consultations should be carried out by audio in the custody suites. Remand hearings will use video technology unless the interests of justice cannot be met, when the defendant will be produced to an open court.