This consultation addresses the Justice Committee ahead of their first meeting on the criminal justice system and COVID-19 on 7 April 2020. JUSTICE is supportive of the many efforts which are being made to keep the justice system functioning during this difficult time. This short briefing to the Committee raises the key principles which JUSTICE considers to be fundamental to justice being done, both within the criminal courts specifically and also in the courts and tribunal system more widely.
- Decisions on papers: deciding matters on the papers can be a useful tool, providing it is just and fair. If the parties do not consent, however, the necessity and proportionality of any interference with the parties’ Article 6 rights must be at the core of any judicial decision to impose a decision on the papers, bearing in mind the audio and video facilities available.
- Remote hearings:
– Fully virtual court rooms are preferable to some participants being physically in a court room with a minority of participants joining via a link. The fully virtual court room better replicates the equality of arms which comes with physical attendance in a hearing.
– It is imperative that video technology is available in prisons and detention facilities to enable defendants and immigration appellants to take part in proceedings without delay.
– In creating a virtual court space, the lay court user’s experience should be the principle guide.
- Open justice: streaming court cases online should be a priority to preserve open justice, given the inability of the public to walk into a court room during COVID-19 lockdown.