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New guidance for remote crown court hearings

The lord chief justice has suggested that crown court hearings should be conducted remotely where it’s lawful and in the interests of justice.

Lord Burnett said hearings involving legal arguments, as well as bail applications, custody time limit extensions, uncontested applications under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and more, are generally suitable for remote attendance by all advocates.

The latest guidance, states that any hearing which a defendant is required to attend in person will normally require the defence advocate also to be physically present at court. When witnesses need to give evidence, this will normally require the advocates who are to examine or cross-examine them to be present in court … unless court orders differently.

Plea and trial preparation hearings will also ‘normally require the attendance in person of advocates for both prosecution and defence’, unless the court agrees there has been ‘effective engagement’ between prosecution and defence and the defendant has been given appropriate plea advice.

Sentencing hearings will be considered on an individual basis with many factors considered on whether advocates can attend remotely, for example, the amount of public interest.

Burnett added that the guidance is not direction but designed to assist in promoting consistency and predictability when it comes to remote attendance in crown courts.

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