Over 40 countries will continue serving justice online

The availability of accessible remote technology has made it possible for various jurisdictions to conduct virtual hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic

Over 40 countries will continue serving justice online

Over 40 countries will continue serving justice online.

Nations like Argentina, Bangladesh and Uganda are accessing available remote technology to maintain their justice systems during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to information collected by Remote Courts Worldwide, the Law Society Gazette said.

This UK initiative tracks various nations’ experiences with the transition to online courts, and was developed through collaboration between the Society for Computers and Law (SCL), the UK LawTech Delivery Panel and Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service.

“To ensure ongoing access to justice, governments and judiciaries are rapidly introducing various forms of 'remote court'—audio hearings (largely by telephone), video hearings (for example, by Skype and Zoom) and paper hearings (decisions delivered on the basis of paper submissions),” said Professor Richard Susskind, technology advisor to the lord chief justice, on the Remote Courts Worldwide website.

Susskind is president of the SCL as well, and is the leader of the initiative. In its first phase, Remote Courts Worldwide has been gathering information on the various steps being taken by different countries.

The SCL has found that Zoom, Skype and teleconferencing are some of the widely accessible remote tools being used for virtual hearings being conducted through video and audio.

Judges all over the world are proceeding with trials that cannot be held through conventional means. Different courts have imposed varying levels of decorum while in online court—for instance, Chileans were found to be quite laid back, whereas a senior Chinese judge argued for the preservation of ritual and formality during hearings.

The ability to follow proceedings via the Internet has also meant that court work is now more open to the public.

In the second phase of the Remote Courts Worldwide initiative, court users, lawyers and judges will be asked to provide feedback on the operations of their respective remote court system. A goal of the initiative is to offer insight to policymakers as they ponder the future of the justice system.

“Remote courts are here to stay and we must work hard, in light of concrete experience, to improve their performance,” Susskind said.

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