Trial and error: attending the High Court during a national lockdown

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Since late March 2020 the majority of Court cases have been held remotely where possible, apart from criminal trials involving a jury, which stopped completely for a while and then restarted in the summer with social distancing and other Covid measures in place.

Taking an injury claim to court during a global pandemic has, unsurprisingly, been new territory for Ashtons’ lawyers. One of our medical negligence specialists, Julie Crossley, discovered the realities of attending a High Court trial during a national lockdown.

Preparations in the weeks leading up to the first hearing involved new considerations for all involved. To make things simpler and safer for our 86 year old client, the judge agreed to hear much of the lay evidence beforehand from our Bury St Edmunds office. During the trial itself there were practical challenges to be overcome. Video calls were the victim of intermittent WIFI from one or more of the parties involved. The result was lengthy unscheduled breaks.  There was also repeated disruption as each witness needed to be ushered in and out of the building individually to comply with social distancing requirements.

Five months later, the second hearing also took place during lockdown. Traditional courtroom proceedings were again enormously restricted. Individuals attended virtually from as far afield as Budapest and Bermuda which, inevitably, created further problems with frozen screens and audio interference.

Attending the High Court in such altered circumstances was in stark contrast to previous visits and brought home to Julie the huge changes wrought by the pandemic. This difference was reinforced by the abnormal quiet of the corridors which mirrored the closed shops and deserted streets of London.

Although the last year has proved that there are some instances where virtual communications, and even remote hearings, work on a practical level, there are certainly times when face-to-face interaction is infinitely preferable. What remains unchanged by the way in which the trial is held of course is the determination to ensure that the best possible result is achieved for each individual client we represent.


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