Following a period since lockdown during which almost all court hearings have been by teleconference, video hearings using the Cisco WebEx virtual system have started. Guidance has been issued for all people taking part in these hearings, including the parties and also lay representatives, although the guidance doesn’t mention lay supporters.
People who are participating should attend a “pre-event test” at least a day before the hearing, and are advised to log in at least 30 minutes before the actual hearing. Participants must use a secured and/or wired connection and the use of Personal or open hotspots (i.e. BT Open Zone) must be avoided. They are advised to position themselves in such a way as to be seen clearly on the screen (i.e. ensuring that you are not too close to the camera so that your face is
dominating the screen).
This move towards video hearings is welcome, as it means that sheriffs should be able to see the parents involved in child welfare hearings.
Despite the statement by the Lord President about the importance of parties can participate effectively in court hearings, we are still hearing about parents not being included in child welfare hearings by phone conference.
As the family courts gradually move towards remote hearings using video connections, it is crucial that the increased complexity of this process doesn’t further exclude parents from hearings.