During the Coronavirus Pandemic, the courts resorted to hearings via video link in many cases (‘remote hearings’), and that trend has continued to a lesser extent since.
A remote hearing is defined as one where any participant joins the hearing remotely via telephone or video call.
Many people have questioned whether such hearings are fair, a question now answered by some of the first in-depth research into this subject area.
What did the researchers conclude?
The study focused on the impact of remote hearings in the Crown Court on efficiency (the duration of hearings and cases) and effectiveness (the pleas submitted and outcomes for not guilty pleas).
Overall, the analysis suggests there are few meaningful differences found in efficiency or effectiveness when remote hearings are used.
Small reductions in hearing durations were found with remote hearings. A remote hearing was on average found to be 6 minutes shorter than a similar in-person hearing and for Plea and Trial Preparation Hearings (PTPH) this difference was 2 minutes. However, holding the plea hearing remotely was found to have no impact on the total case duration or the number of hearings required in a case.
The analysis of trial case outcomes suggests there are no impacts on the wider outcomes of justice.
Outcomes in trial cases were guilty plea at or before the plea hearing, guilty plea after the plea hearing, not guilty plea, dropped case and no plea entered.
There was no impact on the not guilty pleas entered or guilty pleas entered at or before the plea hearing, when that hearing was remote.
This means holding plea hearings remotely didn’t impact the proportion of cases which required a trial. Remote plea hearings were associated with slightly more guilty pleas given after a plea hearing, and less dropped cases and less no pleas entered, however, these differences were comparatively very small and thus not likely to be meaningful.
Where a not guilty plea is given, cases go to trial and the potential outcomes are a conviction, not guilty verdict, and acquittal or a discharge.
The research found that in these cases, having a remote plea hearing had no impact on convictions, acquittals or not guilty verdicts. There was a very small, not likely to be meaningful, reduction in discharges.
The overall assessment?
The results of this analysis show that remote hearings had very small impacts on effectiveness of trial cases. There was no impact on the not guilty pleas entered or guilty pleas entered at or before the plea hearing, when that hearing was remote.
This means holding plea hearings remotely didn’t impact the proportion of cases which required a trial. Of these cases which went to trial after a not guilty plea, having a remote plea hearing had no impact on convictions, acquittals or not guilty verdicts, and only a very small impact on discharges.
This suggests that remote hearings have no impact on wider outcomes of justice.
So, good news!
How can we help?
We cover cases accross England and Wales both remotely and in person
We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact our team on 0207 8373456
Image credit: Crown Copyright