Advocates in favour of remote hearings as temporary measure

Advocates in favour of remote hearings as temporary measure

A survey of members of the Faculty of Advocates has found that there is support for the use of remote hearings as a temporary measure during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey found that four in five agree that remote hearings are a useful addition to how court hearings are heard in Scotland. However, a substantial majority felt that remote hearings should not become the default after the pandemic abates.

A large proportion of advocates felt that remote hearings should not be the default for procedural work (56 per cent), and such hearings should not be the default for submissions (75 per cent).

Over 68 per cent of respondents expressed the view that remote hearings should only be used with the consent of all parties, and the court. This is perhaps because around two-thirds of survey respondents consider it harder to present an argument remotely than in person.

Where remote hearings are to be used, a clear majority of advocates expressed a preference for video hearings over those conducted by phone.

Roddy Dunlop, QC, Dean of Faculty, told Scottish Legal News: “This survey was commissioned as a result of anticipation that there may be a move towards making remote hearings the default position for certain types of business, even after COVID-19 has passed – as has been suggested, for example, by Sheriff Principal Pyle. The survey of members who have been conducting such hearings shows a significant majority against making them the default.

“Faculty quite accepts that for some business – such as short, uncontroversial procedural matters – video hearings may have a part to play. But the disadvantages in such hearings disclosed by the survey are such that Faculty urges caution, and the need for in-depth consultation, before any step is taken to make such hearings the norm.”

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