b'Local Government Lawyer 11Virtual courts, real justiceThe lockdown has shown that online courts are here to stay. Neasa MacErlean looks at the experience of local government lawyers over the past few months and the lessons to be learned.Not much is certain about the post-covidmanaged to carry out over 2,500 a week (63%)full functionality of the Cloud Video Platform future but one legal area would be worthas well as bail and some face-to-face hearings,(CVP) would be rolled-out across Criminal, having a bet onthat virtual courts willas Sir Ernest explained in a webinar organisedCivil, Family and Tribunals.continue. They kept many parts of theby the Administrative Justice Council. Over seven in ten (71%) of local system going during lockdown; have provedInternationally, remote courts were upgovernment legal teams have participated popular in numerous quarters; and, in localand running in 56 countries by mid-Julyin remote trials, according to the Local government, offer cost and time savings and2020 (including Nigeria, Brazil, Azerbaijan,Government Lawyer/LexisNexis survey of widen out the possibilities for in-house teamsChina and the US), according to a study byheads of legal departments. to carry out their own advocacy.Richard Susskind, President of the Society for But even the most enthused users can seeComputers and Law, and the remote courtsOverall Viewsthe downsides and limitations. And, whilewebsite.Local government legal teams stand to gain technical difficulties can largely be solved, it issignificantly from a continuation in virtual harder to imagine virtual courts hosting trials,courts, says Tim Briton, National Lead for inquests and civil cases where the demeanourOver seven in ten (71%)Litigation and Licensing at LLG (Lawyers in of witnesses is itself part of the evidence.Local Government). If the Courts were to of local government legaldispense with remote hearings at this point, What happened in lockdown and after the majority of local government litigators Remote courts began even before lockdown.teams have participated inwould see this as a backwards step, he says. Four days before the prime minister madeUsing technology to enable remote hearings that fateful announcement on 23 March toremote trials give us extra time in our working day so we cloister our society, Sir Ernest Ryder, Seniorget more doneand there is more work to be President of Tribunals, and colleagues,done now than ever.switched the usual two-to-three memberIn the UK, the Supreme Court, according toAn early survey (based on research in April) panel hearings in Tribunal Hearing CentresProfessor Susskinds study, put the technologyfrom the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory and hospitals to remote single judge hearings.in place within a week, had its first remotefound less enthusiasm on family courtsCovering 14 different types of tribunalhearing on 24 March and had heard 17 caseswith 22% of respondents positive,21% (from the inquisitorial Mental Health to theby video and given 24 judgments remotelynegative and 57% with mixed views. A later adversarial Immigration and Tax), these foraby the start of August. The Lord Chief Justicesurvey (published in June) from Lawyers in had processed 4,000 hearings a week before.gave a statement in July, saying there wouldLocal Government, Snap Shot Survey - Virtual Using BT MeetMe for audio hearings andbe more audio and video hearings, new ITCourt Hearings, found 90% rating their Kinly CVP and others for video, the tribunalsequipment for remote hearings, and that theremote experiences positively, and only 10%'