Traffic Commissioner and Court Virtual Hearings
Like all businesses, Ashtons Legal has had to adapt to new ways of working because of the impact of COVID.
One of these is taking part in hearings ‘virtually’ or ‘remotely’. These Virtual Hearings are like any normal court or tribunal hearings – except some or all participants take part remotely: from home or work office or court or tribunal or some other location.
It should always be remembered that hearings conducted in this format are still legal proceedings, where Magistrates, Judges or the Traffic Commissioner can make exactly the same decisions as though everyone was physically present in Court in a ‘normal’ hearing.
We have conducted a number of Court and Traffic Commissioner virtual hearings and, generally speaking, the common consensus is that they have worked well, though one has to adapt to a different ‘courtroom dynamic’.
Whilst is it entirely lawful to attend a court or tribunal in person (COVID regulations expressly permit this) it can be advantageous not to have to attend. Some benefits and considerations are as follows:
- significant savings in travel time and costs for clients, witnesses and lawyers
- all documents must be lodged in an organised format in advance of any hearing
- legal arguments and evidence may need to be more concise, and more may now need to be set out in writing
- how one should approach the giving of evidence and cross-examination of witnesses
- by appearing ‘remotely’ the hearing may feel less onerous or formal but it is not, so must not be under-estimated
- the format may be better for shorter hearings rather than protracted ones
- non-attendance at the court or tribunal mitigates COVID risks
Court hearings use a Cloud Video Platform (CVP), an internet-based video meeting service, for virtual hearings whilst the Office of the Traffic Commissioner uses the MS Teams meeting facility platform.
We have conducted fully ‘remote’ hearings – where all parties, including witnesses, are remote – and ‘hybrid’ hearings where we may attend the courtroom but one or more others attend by video link. We think short hearings may be more desirable but have conducted a fully remote Traffic Commissioner hearing of some five hours’ duration, that proceeded smoothly and effectively.
Some courts have been using video links for years, long before COVID, and this way of working will likely remain as a more efficient way of conducting hearings and managing cases. The system is not perfect – but there are benefits, and only time will tell to what extent the interests of justice are in any way disadvantaged, if they are at all, using this format.
We Can Help You
At Ashtons Legal we continue to support and represent our operator clients at Court and at Traffic Commissioner Preliminary Hearing or Public Inquiry hearings. If you believe we may be able to assist you or for further information regarding Virtual Hearings, please get in contact with us on 0330 404 0777 or email email@example.com.
DVSA maintenance & driver investigations – 17 November at 10 am
Join Road Transport and Regulatory Law expert Tim Ridyard, and DVSA enforcement policy managers, Dave Wood and Mark Horton, who will be providing a topical update including how DVSA carry out fleet and drive investigations, to ensure operators have proper systems in place. Book here.
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