May 31, 2021
“The tribunals provide a vital safety net for many people, including those who are most vulnerable. The swift action taken by the judiciary and HMCTS to implement remote hearings ensured that this safety net remained available during the pandemic. The Foundation felt it was important to support the tribunals judiciary to gather lessons from this period, and to ensure that the future use of remote hearings is guided by empirical insights” Matthew Smerdon, TLEF chief executiveThe survey on which the report is based captured the experiences of over 1500 tribunal judicial office holders who were asked to reflect on the remote hearings they had taken part in between March and July 2020. The 35 recommendations presented in the report set out immediate practical and longer- term steps to improve the experience of judicial office holders and to ensure that remote hearings are deployed in a manner that secures safe, effective and efficient access to justice.
“In the context of a global pandemic that rendered the conduct of physical hearings impossible the adoption of remote hearings across the tribunals was vital to ensure that cases could proceed. As we move towards recovery, we now have an opportunity to reflect on our experience. This research adds to a growing body of evidence which helps us to better understand the circumstances in which remote hearings can be used, and where their adoption risks undermining access to justice. It also provides important insights into the impact of remote justice on those who are tasked with delivering it.”Dr Natalie Byrom, TLEF Director of Research The research gathered the views of judicial office holders on a range of topics including: i.) their satisfaction with the support and guidance they were offered; ii.) their views on the technology that was used, iii.) their perceptions of the impact of remote hearings on the practical and emotional barriers to participation experienced by appellants; iv.) the effect of proceeding remotely on their ability to identify and make adjustments for vulnerable appellants; v.) the influence of remote hearings on the structure of hearings and vi.) any changes to their decision-making process that had occurred in response to proceeding with hearings remotely. The survey also explores the impact of remote hearings on the well-being and morale of judicial office holders.
“In spite of the scale with which remote hearings have been adopted, there are still large gaps in our understanding of their efficacy and impact. We have very little data on the impact of remote hearings on outcomes, judicial decision making, and the experience of court and tribunal users. We also lack objective data to assess the impact of remote hearings on the efficiency of the justice system. Only with consistent, robust data collection of the kind recommended in this report, can we assess the extent to which remote hearings provide a viable route to recovery” Dr Natalie Byrom, TLEF Director of Research