November 6, 2020


This blog is a bit different from my regular contribution however I thought it would be helpful to update practitioners on how things have been going since the Tribunals reopened at the end of June.

I had an in-person hearing which was heard over three weeks at the beginning of July. This was very much a learning experience both for the parties and the Tribunal. What I learnt from this hearing is that a ready supply of gloves, face masks and hand sanitiser are now essential equipment for a practitioner undertaking an in-person hearing. Of these three, gloves are probably the most important as this allows witnesses to use the same bundle rather than having to provide individual copies of the bundle for each witness.

I have conducted a number of telephone hearings dealing with preliminary points such as disability and time limits. I found these hearings challenging and would in future ensure that any hearing which requires live witness evidence is carried out via the Cloud Video Platform (CVP) or in person.

I have undertaken multi day cases using CVP. The technology worked relatively well and was user friendly. Having undertaken a CVP hearing earlier in the year without clients present, I have opted where feasible to have my clients present for the hearing in chambers. Where I am based in Southampton we are fortunate enough to have two large rooms (one with a big screen) which can be utilised for this purpose. It also makes it much easier to resolve technical issues should they arise during the hearing.

Client’s find giving evidence via CVP is not just a technical challenge. The trepidation which witnesses feel when having to give evidence is still present and I have found having the opportunity to meet witnesses prior to the hearing to put them at ease whilst being able to maintain social distancing is important. This makes the CVP hearing feel akin to being at an in-person Tribunal hearing.

There are a few ground rules for CVP:

  • Mute your microphone when you are not speaking.
  • If you are struggling with your connection logging in and out can sort this problem out.
  • You should avoid using two laptops in the same room as this creates interference.
  • Check your internet connection is up to it and have your phone ready as a back up.
  • Remind witnesses to bring their own Holy Book.
  • Ensure that your documents are sent in on time and have been received by the Tribunal.
  • This is still a public hearing so you should dress and behave accordingly.

Finally some Tribunals are coping with the situation better than others. Bristol are well organised and have pushed forwards with CVPs. I have now undertaken a two-day and a three-day case using CVP. I see no reason why longer cases, if properly prepared, cannot be heard via CVP. This is as everybody keeps reminding us the new normal

Peter Doughty

Commercial, Employment, Family, General Civil, Insolvency, Property and Planning, Will Disputes