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A pilot scheme launched today will test a fully video courtroom with members of the public for the first time.

Witnesses and victims already give evidence by video link in some criminal and civil trials, but in this development everyone, including the judge, advocates and parties, will participate in the hearing over the internet, albeit the judge will be located in the court room.

Although these on line hearings are initially being piloted only for tax appeals, if successful then they may be used it the future in other types of hearing. At the moment, potential participants are being invited to take part and hence given the choice whether or not to use this new type of hearing.

This is the latest in a series of moves to modernise the court service into the digital age, with the aim of making justice swifter, simper and easier to access for everyone and will no doubt reduce the amount of time and expense wasted in travelling to and from hearing venues.
Later this year we can expect a similar pilot for an online court in which civil claims for under £10,000 can be determined.

Whilst the stated aims of the pilots are laudable, our adversarial system justice is underpinned by the principle that justice must be done publicly. How the general public can observe justice done by video hearing and online sources remains to be seen.