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Notes from HMCTS on Remote Hearings

We’re increasing the use of phone, video and other technology to continue as many hearings as possible remotely.

The court or tribunal will decide which hearings can take place by video or phone. Both phone and video are free to use.

HMCTS will contact you by post or email to:

  • let you know if your hearing will take place by video or phone
  • confirm the time and date of the hearing
  • ask for your preferred phone number or email
  • ask if you need any support to join the hearing

Deciding how the hearing takes place

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

To make the decision, they will consider:

  • the details of the case
  • the type of hearing, and how complex it may be
  • information you’ve given to the court that may affect you taking part in a phone or video hearing

Preparing for your video or phone hearing

Be in a quiet, private space and tell everyone in your location you must not be interrupted. If you need to move away from your screen or phone during the hearing, ask permission.

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

If you need to have someone with you who is not a legal representative, you must ask the court’s permission.

If you do not understand something, ask court staff or the judge.

Before your phone hearing you must:

  • be ready at least 15 minutes before the call
  • make sure the device you will use is fully charged, so you do not get cut off during the hearing

Before your video hearing you must:

  • test the equipment beforehand so the technology is not a distraction
  • set your screen at 90 degrees to the keyboard so your face can be seen properly
  • sit with light in front of you so your face is not in the shadow
  • make sure the view behind you is blank or neutral

Video hearing rules

Everyone must follow the same rules as in a courtroom. This means:

  • only drink water
  • no eating
  • no smoking or e-cigarettes
  • follow the court or tribunal’s instructions

It’s a criminal offence to record or publish any court hearing without authorisation.

Support to join the hearing

If you need an interpreter or other support to join the hearing, tell us using the contact details in your hearing notice.

You may want to get legal advice before your hearing. To understand more about legal advice and the options available visit the Legal Choices website. You can check if you are eligible for legal aid or see what other sources of affordable legal help are available using Citizens Advice’s guidance.

If you cannot join the hearing

Please tell us using the contact details on your hearing notice. The court will decide whether the hearing may:

  • go ahead without you
  • be scheduled for a later date

If you do not join the hearing, the case could proceed in your absence.

Joining by CVP, Skype or BT Meet Me

Your hearing notice will state if your hearing will take place by phone or video and whether it will be by CVP, Skype or BT MeetMe.

It will also tell you the time and date of your hearing.

How to join by BT meet me phone call

We’ll call you from an unknown number at the time of the hearing. 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:

  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, a member of staff will introduce themselves and explain how the hearing will work and what you need to do.

How to join by Cloud Video Platform (CVP)

Once we’ve received your preferred contact details you’ll receive an email with a website link and sign in details. Check your spam folder if you have not received it.

To join the video 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 member of staff will introduce themselves and explain how the hearing will work and what you need to do.

How to join by Skype for Business

Once you’ve told us your preferred contact details you’ll receive an email with a web link to join the hearing. Check your spam folder if you have not received it.

To join the video 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 member of staff will introduce themselves and explain how the hearing will work and what you need to do.

After the hearing

The judge or the person in charge of the proceedings will:

  • check they have dealt with all the issues raised
  • tell you when you can expect a decision
  • confirm the hearing is finished and tell you when you may leave the call

Recording and transcript

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