Find out how you should prepare for a telephone or video court or tribunal hearing and what to expect on the day.
Professional participants should also read our guidance for joining a criminal hearing on video as a professional.
A judge can decide to hold a hearing by telephone or video, based on relevant rules in that area of law. If you’re participating in a hearing, the court or tribunal will tell you if it’s taking place by video or telephone and explain how to join.
If you want to observe a hearing by video or telephone, contact the court in advance.
We’ll call you at the time of the hearing and may call from an unknown number. If you use call barring services, please 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:
- press the ✱ (star) key and number 1 to join
- say your name
- press the # (hash) key
- once you’re in the hearing, stay on mute until you’re asked to speak – press ✱6 to mute and to unmute
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 may also need to have access to a computer or tablet device (such as an iPad) to be able to receive additional documents on the day.
If you have any issues with receiving or taking part in a telephone hearing, tell the court or tribunal as soon as possible.
If your hearing is happening by video, the court or tribunal will tell you what video platform is being used. When you know the platform, follow the appropriate link for guidance on joining the video hearing and testing your equipment:
Before the hearing you must:
- check you have the right internet browser or application on your device
- read the guidance on how to join the hearing
- test your equipment using the platform testing instructions, so you know it works – if you’ve not done this it may delay or disrupt the hearing
- tell us immediately if you have any issues joining the platform or testing your equipment, using the contact information in the information you have been sent
The court or tribunal will consider your needs 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.
Before your hearing
You should tell the court or tribunal what telephone number or email address we should use to contact you for the hearing.
You should also ask the court for any special arrangements or measures that would help you feel safe and comfortable to take part in the hearing. This may include making sure you can’t be seen by another person involved in the case. The court will try to provide what you ask for, however this may not always be possible.
You can find the court or tribunal’s contact details in the information they have sent you, or by searching online.
Get legal help
If you’re taking part in a hearing with a legal representative, agree with them how you will communicate confidentially during the hearing.
If you’re a prosecution witness in a criminal case, discuss with your witness care officer any support you may need.
If you’re a defence witness in a criminal case, discuss with the defence solicitor any support you may need.
Have someone support you during your hearing
In non-criminal cases you can ask for someone to provide support to you during your telephone or video hearing. They could be part of a charitable organisation, local government service, a friend or family member. They cannot be someone involved in the case.
You’ll need to ask the permission of the court or tribunal for them to join. They cannot give legal advice or speak on your behalf but can provide emotional support and practical information about the process.
Choose where to be for the hearing
Before the hearing you must:
- choose a space that is quiet and private
- let people who share the space know that you must not be interrupted during the hearing
- test your equipment
We know that people with disabilities sometimes need additional support. This can mean that we need to provide something different so you can access and use our services in the same way as a person without a disability. We often call this a reasonable adjustment.
If you need a reasonable adjustment, tell us using the contact details you have been sent. We will discuss this with the judge hearing your case. Judges are committed to making sure everyone can give their best evidence, participate effectively and have a fair hearing.
Make sure you have all your documents
Contact the court or tribunal, or speak to your legal representative, to check that you have easy access to all the documents that you will need on the day.
If documents need to be shared on the day, the judge, magistrate or other court officer will tell you how you can share or receive them.
The day of your hearing
Prepare for your telephone or video hearing
Be ready at least 20 minutes before the hearing and make sure you have:
- fully charged or plugged in the device you are using to join the hearing
- any documents you’ll need for the hearing ready
- your preferred holy book or scripture to swear an oath on (if applicable)
- removed from the space anything else that could be distracting, such as a mobile phone (unless you are using it for the hearing)
If you’re joining by video and participating in the hearing, you must also:
- 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
If you’re observing the hearing rather than participating you may be asked to turn off your camera.
During the hearing
Telephone and video hearings follow the same process as they would in a court or tribunal building.
At the start of the hearing, the judge or magistrate will explain what will happen. They may ask you questions to make sure you’ve understood. It’s important that if you do not understand something you let them know.
If you’re giving evidence during the hearing you will be asked to swear an oath or make a legally binding promise (known as an affirmation) that your evidence will be true. There is no need to use a holy book or scripture unless you wish to; if so you will need to have it ready.
Your role in the hearing
To avoid disrupting the hearing, mute your microphone if possible, so the court or tribunal does not hear background noise or conversation. You may be automatically muted, depending on the platform being used.
If joining by video, remember you’ll be seen on screen and should be mindful of your body language and behaviour, whether you’re speaking or not.
You may ask the judge or magistrate if you need something repeated that you did not follow or understand.
When you’re speaking, remember to make sure your microphone is not muted and speak clearly.
You may ask the judge or magistrate if you need to take a break during your hearing.
Rules of the hearing
You must treat telephone and video hearings as seriously as if they were in a court or tribunal building.
During the hearing you must:
- only drink water
- not eat
- not smoke or use e-cigarettes
- follow the court or tribunal’s instructions
- be alone unless you have permission otherwise
It’s a criminal offence to record the hearing’s video or sound yourself, or take photos or screen shots.
You can take written notes if you wish and can apply for a transcript when hearings are recorded.
At the end of your hearing
The judge or magistrate may leave the telephone or video call for a short time to think about their decision.
They may decide on the day, or the decision will be sent to you by post or email afterwards if you’re a participant.
The judge or magistrate will tell you when you can leave the hearing. See the guidance for your platform for how to leave the hearing.
Tell us about your experience
Help us improve our services by telling us about your telephone or video hearing experience.
Some of the important guidance on this page is also available as a video: