Guidance

How to join telephone and video hearings during coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Use this guide if you’ve been asked to join a hearing by telephone or video using BT MeetMe, Skype for Business or Cloud Video Platform (CVP) during the coronavirus outbreak

Overview

HMCTS is increasing the use of phone, video and other technology to continue as many hearings as possible remotely.

We will contact you to let you know if your hearing will take place by video or phone. We will also confirm this information in your hearing notice. The notice will also confirm the time and date of the hearing.

The judge or magistrate will decide if the hearing should take place by video or phone if they’re satisfied; it’s in the interests of justice for everyone involved.

Support available before your hearing

We can provide a variety of support and assistance to help you take part in your hearing if you need it, for example, an interpreter, reasonable adjustments.

Tell us if you have any issues or need support to join the hearing. Use the contact details in your hearing notice to contact us.

The court or tribunal will consider your request and do everything possible to make sure you’ll be able to participate in the hearing. This could involve you joining in a different way. If this is not possible, we may adjourn the hearing.

For technical support to join your audio or video hearing:

Telephone: 0330 808 9405
Monday to Thursday 9am to 5pm
Friday 9am to 4pm
Saturday and bank holidays 8am to 2pm
Find out about call charges

You may want to get legal advice and find out what legal help is available before your hearing. You can check if you are eligible for legal aid or find out about affordable legal help.

Preparing for your video or phone hearing

When you receive the hearing notice, use the contact details to tell us as soon as possible:

  • your preferred contact details
  • If you would like support or cannot join the hearing,
  • if you want to have someone with you who is not acting as your legal representative, for example, a support worker.

The judge or magistrate will consider your request; they will decide how the hearing will go ahead.

Before your hearing

You must:

  • decide where you’ll sit for the hearing, it should be a space that is quiet and private
  • let people who share the space know as you must not be interrupted during the hearing
  • make sure the device you’ll use is fully charged or plugged in, so you do not get cut off during the hearing
  • have any documents you’ll need for the hearing ready beforehand
  • turn off your mobile phone or anything else that could be distracting you
  • be ready at least 15 minutes before the hearing

If you’re taking part in a hearing with a legal representative, agree how you will communicate confidentially during the hearing.

We will ask you to take an oath or make an affirmation when giving evidence. An oath is a promise, to tell the truth. If you want to make this with a Holy Book or Scripture, make you have it with you.

If you’re joining by video:

  • check you have the right software for your device, if needed, and that you know how to join the hearing
  • test the equipment, so you know it works
  • dress as if you were coming into a court or tribunal building
  • have something plain behind you like a blank wall
  • sit with light in front of you, so your face is not in shadow
  • make sure we can see your face and shoulders

During the hearing

Remote hearings will follow the same process as they would in a building. At the start of the hearing, the judge or magistrate will explain what will happen.

The judge may ask you questions to make sure you’ve understood. It’s important that if you do not understand something or need a break, you let the judge know.

To avoid disrupting the hearing, mute your microphone if possible, so the court or tribunal does not hear background noise or conversation.

When your video is on, you’ll be seen at all times so be mindful of your body language and behaviour whether you’re speaking or not.

If you have technical issues or are unable to join the hearing on the day, please call us on 0330 808 9405.

Rules

Everyone must treat remote hearings as seriously as if they were in a court or tribunal building. The rules below should be followed:

  • only drink water
  • no eating
  • no smoking or e-cigarettes
  • follow the court or tribunal’s instructions
  • be alone unless they have permission otherwise

Recording and transcripts

The process for recording video hearings will be the same as for hearings held in a court building. You can apply for a transcript when hearings are recorded.

It’s a criminal offence to record, publish and take pictures of any court hearing without authorisation.

Joining by BT Meet Me, Cloud Video Platform (CVP) or Skype

Your hearing notice will state if your hearing will take place by phone or video and if it’s by BT MeetMe, Cloud Video Platform (CVP) or Skype.

How to join a BT meet me phone hearing

We’ll call you at the time of the hearing, we may call from an unknown number. If you use call barring services, turn them off so we can reach you.

When we call you, you’ll hear a welcome message saying you’re invited to join a conference call.

To join the hearing:

  1. press ‘*’ (star) key and number one to join
  2. say your name
  3. press the ‘#’ (hash) key
  4. once you’re in the hearing, stay on mute until you’re asked to speak

At the start of the hearing, the judge or magistrate will introduce themselves and explain how the hearing will work and what you need to do. You should mute your line to reduce background noise on the call if you’re in a noisy environment. To mute your line, press *6 and to unmute, press *6 again.

How to join a Cloud Video Platform (CVP) hearing

We need your email address to invite you to a CVP hearing. If we already have this, the hearing notice could include a web link to join the hearing. If we do not have it, we’ll ask for it in the hearing notice and will send a separate email with the link when we receive it. Check your spam folder if you have not received it.

To join the hearing:

  1. download Google Chrome as this is the preferred browser
  2. copy the link into Google Chrome and click ‘enter’
  3. type in your full name, click the camera icon to connect with audio and video, then click ‘connect’
  4. select default microphone and camera options then click ‘start’
  5. enter the PIN given in the email invitation and click ‘connect’
  6. when you join, you’ll be in the waiting area until the hearing starts.

At the start of the hearing, a judge or magistrate will introduce themselves and explain how the hearing will work and what you need to do.

How to join a Skype hearing

We need your preferred email address to invite you to a Skype hearing. If we already have this, the hearing notice could include a web link to join the hearing. If we don’t have it, we’ll ask for it in the hearing notice and will send a separate email with the link, once we receive it. Check your spam folder if you have not received it.

To join the hearing:

  1. download Skype for Business software on the device you’ll use to join the hearing. Check this step by step guide on how to download it
  2. click on the Skype for Business link in your email
  3. join as a guest and when asked, type in your full name
  4. wait in the Skype lobby until the chairperson invites you into the hearing
  5. stay on mute with your video off until you are asked to speak or turn the video on

At the start of the hearing, a judge or magistrate will introduce themselves and explain how the hearing will work and what you need to do.

Tell us about your experience

We’re doing everything we can to keep hearings running during this time. This includes increasing the number of video and phone hearings. Please help us improve our services by telling us about your experience.

Learn more about how we are managing video and calls hearings during the outbreak.

Published 8 April 2020
Last updated 12 May 2020 + show all updates
  1. Added translation

  2. Added - additional guidance on what to do before and during your video or phone hearing - a phone number to call if you need technical support with your video or hearing

  3. Added translation

  4. First published.