As lawyers and judges become increasingly accustomed to remote hearings, is there a danger of professional complacency about parents’ access to justice?

In April, we published the interim results of our survey about remote hearings in the Family Court which we had submitted to the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory’s Rapid Review consultation.

The FJO have now re-opened consultation to check back in on how things are going with remote working in the family court and we have taken the opportunity to look at what our survey is now telling us (the survey remains open). We have submitted our findings to the new consultation.

Although the numbers of responses to our survey are quite small, they do show some identifiable patterns, the most significant of which is the continuing proportion of parents who are reporting that they have attended remote hearings, even final hearings, without access to the papers in the case. In addition, a significant proportion of parents are still joining hearings using a mobile phone, even where the hearing was by video, meaning that any picture will be very small. It is easy for lawyers involved in particular types of work (public law work where everyone is entitled to a lawyer or private law cases where the parents have funds to pay for a lawyer) to form the impression that most hearings are taking place by video, or that there are relatively few remaining difficulties with access to justice where hearings are remote. Thsi is because where parties are represented, many issues can be ironed out and the process is becoming increasingly slick. However, where parents are participating in person, particularly in private law cases, there is perhaps a different story. We note that even in responses where the parents were represented, they are sometimes reporting not having access to the papers, which is surprising. There is more detail about the survey responses in our submission to the FJO.

You can read our updated findings and submission to the FJO here.

You can read our interim findings and submission to the FJO from April here.

You can submit your own response to the FJO here. The survey is open until 30 September.

You can read our guidance for litigants about remote hearings here.

Feature pic : pexels-ketut-subiyanto-4474029

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