Author
Stuart Broom

Stuart Broom

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Author
Stuart Broom

Stuart Broom

Partner

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17 March 2020

Disputes Quick Read – 45 of 63 Insights

Disputes Quick Read: Coronavirus - a growth in virtual courts?

  • QUICK-READ

The threat of coronavirus will impact the operation of court systems. Just yesterday, global announcements included:

  • the US Supreme Court will postpone oral arguments scheduled for the next few weeks
  • the European Court of Human Rights will maintain only essential activities – in particular, the handling of priority cases and
  • the Indian Supreme Court has said that there would be virtual courts in operation soon and that lawyers would be able to make oral submissions via video conferencing from as early as next week.

It seems likely that the use of virtual courts, and technology in dispute resolution, will have to increase globally in order to prevent an ever-growing backlog of cases during any period of total or partial shutdown. 

But how will the UK courts react?  As matters stand, the advice from HMCTS is that the business of our courts and tribunals continues, and that judges can consider the use of audio or video links. One might say that the reaction has been too slow.  The Lord Chief Justice has, however, today announced that COVID-19 will impact the operation of all courts and that there is an urgent need to increase the use of telephone and video technology immediately. The courts are also due to announce contingency plans imminently, and in the coming days, the UK government is expected to put forward emergency legislation including measures to expand the use of video hearings in courts.

While that all sounds encouraging – and no doubt the volume of telephone hearings and evidence by video link will increase – it would be a substantial step to move from the current system (which largely makes use of this technology for procedural matters or for parts of a trial) to the holding of commercial trials remotely. 

Such developments ordinarily occur gradually, through consultation and pilot schemes. Parties tend to view change conservatively, and progress can be slow.  

At times like these it can be hard to find the positives. The outbreak could, however, prove to be a welcome catalyst: a prompt for radical change in the handling of disputes, and the technology to support them.

In this series

Cryptoassets, blockchain and distributed ledger technology

Disputes Quick Read: New obligations on cryptobusinesses to report under the UK sanctions regime

9 August 2022

by Nick Maday, Katie Fry-Paul

Disputes & investigations

Disputes Quick Read: New gateway for serving Norwich Pharmacal Orders and Bankers Trust orders out of the jurisdiction

Welcome news for those pursuing fraud claims in the English Courts

28 July 2022

by Emma Allen, Samantha Brendish

Disputes & investigations

Disputes Quick Read: UK Supreme Court rules on the territorial extent of the SFO's powers

26 February 2021

by Multiple authors

Disputes & investigations

Disputes Quick Read: Care required when drafting SPA claim notices

23 September 2020

by Multiple authors

Disputes & investigations

Disputes Quick Read: The latest on Unexplained Wealth Orders

7 May 2020

by Multiple authors

Disputes & investigations

Disputes Quick Read: Tomlin Orders – ensuring the confidentiality of settlement terms

27 April 2020

by Multiple authors

Disputes & investigations

Disputes Quick Read: Commercial Court's arbitral power shift

21 February 2020

by Andrew Howell

Disputes & investigations

Disputes quick read: pilot error?

13 February 2020

by Andrew Howell

Disputes & investigations

Disputes Quick Read: Privilege waiver warning

2 July 2020

by Tim Strong, Georgina Jones

Disputes & investigations

Disputes Quick Read: Dealing in crypto? Be careful what you call it

7 April 2022

by Multiple authors

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