The Covid-19 pandemic has already had far-reaching consequences, one of which is that remote working has become the new normality and will continue as such for the foreseeable future. In that spirit, the senior judiciary have recently announced that all future civil hearings should be conducted remotely wherever possible.
Strictly speaking, the ability of the court to conduct remote hearings is nothing new; CPR 3.1(2)(d) has always permitted the court to hold a hearing and receive evidence by telephone or by using any other method of direct oral communication and Annex 3 to Practice Direction 32 contains guidance for the use of video conferencing in civil proceedings. Nor is the technology that would enable a remote hearing to take place particularly novel (the telephone was first patented in 1876, three years after the creation of the High Court and Skype has been offering free videotelephony for nearly 15 years). However, in practice, the courts have been slow to depart from conventional in-person hearings.
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