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After Experience of COVID, More Online Court Cases Possible

More court cases could go online to make them more accessible and efficient, according to a new report published by Aberystwyth academics looking at the justice system during the pandemic.

Over the last year, a team from Aberystwyth University have looked at the experiences of courts and tribunals, the legal professions and judiciary of remote hearings during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The academics evaluated both the challenges and the opportunities presented by the use of remote hearings in family cases, immigration cases, cases involving children, tribunal hearings, civil, and criminal cases.

The new report says that while remote hearings should not become routine procedures in the interests of cost saving, it should also not be presumed that reverting to pre-covid practice is necessarily desirable.

It considers the benefits to accessibility and efficiency, along with the potential hurdles and complexities of ensuring that the process is both fair and effective.  The research also considers issues such as technology, use of simultaneous interpreters, perceptions of informality, assessing demeanour and building rapport.

Dr Catrin Fflur Huws, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Law and Criminology at Aberystwyth University, who has been leading the study said:

“At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, rapid adjustments were made by the courts to enable hearings to be conducted entirely online.  Our research has brought together distinguished legal researchers and practitioners through workshops, simulated court proceedings, and an online conference, to discuss observations from hybrid and remote hearings to date.

“The report of our findings evaluates both the challenges and the opportunities presented by remote hearings, and explores their future in an ever-expanding digital age. The viewpoints and experiences included in the report are an important contribution to the debate around the use of remote hearings in a post-Covid society, and their dissemination is timely before pre-Covid routines become fully re-established and hardened.”

Other Aberystwyth academics involved in the study are Dr Rhianedd Jewell, a Senior Lecturer in Professional Welsh with expertise in translation studies and professional translation, and Psychology lecturer Dr Hanna Binks who specialises in language acquisition and the psychology of bilingualism. Non Humphries, a PhD student within the Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies is also part of the investigation team, along with Human Rights student Leonie Schwede.

The research work has been funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales’ Research Wales Innovation Fund.

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