Joining a criminal hearing on video as a professional

How to prepare for a video hearing in the Crown or magistrates’ court and what to expect on the day if you are a professional participant.

This guide is for professional participants in criminal hearings, including:

  • prosecutors
  • defence solicitors
  • probation officers
  • liaison officers
  • youth offending teams
  • interpreters
  • intermediaries

For general guidance for all attendees, including professionals and citizens, read our guidance on what to expect when joining a telephone or video hearing.

Our video hearing platform

All video criminal hearings use Cloud Video Platform (CVP), which allows you to join:

  • ‘video-enabled’ hearings remotely, where the hearing is conducted in a courtroom; or
  • full-video hearings, where all participants take part remotely

You can join a video-enabled or full-video hearing using a computer, tablet or other internet enabled device.

Read the guidance on how to join a CVP hearing. This also includes guidance on how you can share documents and other files during the hearing.

If you need technical support with CVP, call our helpdesk on 0330 808 9405 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. On Saturdays and bank holidays please contact the court.

If technical support cannot solve your problem, then you must tell the court immediately.

Who can attend a video hearing

If the court has decided to hold a full-video hearing, all participants will be invited to join remotely.

For permission to attend a video-enabled hearing remotely, email the court’s nominated email address for CVP with your reason for the request. You must do this no later than 24 hours before the hearing or, for magistrates’ remand hearings, on the morning of the hearing. If permission is granted, the court will send joining instructions. In the Crown court this will be on the Digital Case System (DCS) or by email if you do not have access to DCS; in the magistrates’ court this will be by email.

If a witness is required to join a hearing by video, they will need the court’s approval. If you are supervising witnesses as a prosecutor or defence solicitor, you must apply on your witnesses’ behalf.

The court room will remain open for members of the public to attend if they wish but they must observe social distancing rules. They should let the court know if they wish to attend.

Members of the media wishing to observe a hearing remotely should seek permission from the court as soon as possible.

Defendants attending a video hearing

The court will decide if it is appropriate for a defendant in custody to take part by video.

Defendants on bail must attend court in person for video-enabled hearings. If you are representing a defendant, you can apply for them to join by video where it is not possible for them to attend court. You must apply by email to the court’s nominated email address for CVP at least 24 hours before the hearing.

Before the hearing

You must send the court the email address and a phone number they should use to contact you. Any of your colleagues that will also be participating must contact the court separately. Find the court or tribunal’s contact details.

If you have been invited to participate in a video hearing, the invitation will include hearing details. Where appropriate, this will also include details of the consultations arranged by the court with the prison for defence solicitors and their clients before or after the hearing.

In a magistrates’ court, the court will send you the invitation by email. In the Crown court, the court will post a notification in DCS. If you cannot access the DCS, we will send this by email.

If a defendant in police custody needs an interpreter, the police will book one. In other circumstances the court will book the interpreter. We will send the interpreter the details on how to join the hearing.

For remand hearings from police custody, you must introduce yourself to the court using their nominated email address for CVP on or before 8am on the day of the hearing to provide:

  • your name (and the name of the defendant you are representing, if applicable)
  • your full contact details (including a direct telephone number)

Consulting with the defendant

If the defendant is in police custody, you will be given time before the hearing to speak with them by telephone at the custody suite. The custody suite will contact you directly to make the arrangements.

If the defendant is in a court cell, contact the court. You may be able to book a telephone consultation slot of 15 minutes. Where this is not possible, you will need to attend court and speak to the defendant in person.

If the defendant is in prison, introduce yourself to the court 48 hours before the hearing. The court will provide you with details of the hearing and consultation. On the day of the consultation, you will need to show identification (ID) to prison staff. This must include:

  • a photo ID card – for example, from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) or a legal firm, or a bar council professional access digital card; or
  • an introductory letter on headed paper from your firm, along with a passport or photo driving licence

Show physical copies of your ID using your device camera or share your screen if you have digital versions.

You must let the court video host know if you are unable to attend a pre-hearing video consultation.

During the hearing

Hearings by video follow the same process as they would in a court building. You should also read our general guidance on what to expect when joining a video hearing.

Your role in the hearing

When joining a video hearing, CVP will ask you what your role in the hearing is – for example, defence solicitor. The court may ask you to introduce yourself and your role before you speak and again at each stage of the hearing.

You may encounter some hearings where there are audio delays – please avoid interrupting or talking over people. The court may introduce longer gaps between each participant as they speak to allow for any delays.

Speaking in private

If you are a defence solicitor, you should take full instructions from your client before the hearing. If it is necessary, the court can pause the hearing while you talk to your client in private. The court will agree how long it will last and will place the other participants in the lobby. Tell the court if you need more time or finish earlier than expected – you can do this using the CVP chat function or by calling the number provided by the court video host.

We will share the contact details of the attending professionals ahead of the hearing. If you need to talk in private to another professional, such as the prosecutor or a defence solicitor, you should try to do so before the hearing. If you need to speak during the hearing, make sure you and they are on mute and contact them by phone.

If you are a probation officer, the court may order an on-the-day (‘stand-down’) pre-sentence report. The judge may decide to pause the hearing to allow you time to speak to the defendant. If the defendant is in police custody, you may be able conduct the stand-down report by telephone. For defendants on bail, depending on their location, you can conduct the report by telephone or face-to-face.

Do not use the chat function on CVP for any private conversation, as this will be seen by all participants.

Sharing case materials

In the magistrates’ court, case materials are sent to the relevant participants by secure email before the hearing. In Crown court they are available in DCS.

During the hearing, documents can be shared on screen.

When you share documents, make sure that these are clean copies and do not have any annotations.

New evidence or information

If new evidence or information is presented at the hearing, this will be managed in the same way as a hearing in the court room.

If circumstances change significantly, you can ask for a pause in the hearing, or an adjournment. You can then talk in private to other professional participants by telephone.

After the hearing

Consulting with the defendant

If you need to talk to the defendant after the hearing, make sure they are aware of this before they are excused.

If the defendant is remanded to custody, please let the court know while still on video and before the defendant is taken to a custody cell. The court will arrange to call you by telephone so that you can talk to the defendant.

For defendants in prison, the court will have booked a post-hearing consultation in advance. If you are the defence solicitor and do not require the slot, let the court know at the end of the hearing. If you are a probation officer, you can use the slot if it is free or book a slot directly with the prison.

Follow-up hearings

The court will aim to progress a case as far as possible in the first hearing, including case management or sentencing where required. Where additional hearings are required, the court will decide if they also need to be held on video.

Published 1 February 2021
Last updated 8 February 2021 + show all updates
  1. Added Welsh translation.

  2. First published.