Have you been asked to appear in a virtual hearing? Regardless of whether this is your first or 100th time appearing in court, it is safe to say appearing in a court whilst in a global pandemic will be a unique experience. Virtually all hearings in Victoria are currently being conducted either on the papers (meaning no appearance by the parties is required) or via video conferencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the new-look hearings it is important for all of those attending to be familiar with the rules surrounding each court’s or tribunal’s policies regarding video conferencing.
The following are a few hints and tips to help avoid any mishaps with video conferencing:
1. Test your equipment and computer before the hearing
- You should always test to ensure that your webcam, computer and microphone is working properly with the relevant computer software being used by the court for the hearing.
- One way of testing this is to schedule a video conference prior to the hearing with your solicitor and/or barrister using the software (e.g. Zoom or Microsoft Teams) and the equipment you plan on using for the hearing.
- You should also set up a separate chat function with your legal representatives where you are able to contact them directly and privately during the hearing. Examples include text messaging, Whatsapp messaging, or Microsoft Teams chat.
2. Ensure the space or room you use for the hearing is secure and uninterrupted
- You should ensure that children and pets are secured and away from this space to ensure no chance of interruption during the hearing.
- You should also tell people nearby that you are attending a hearing and that you should not be interrupted. It is important to be respectful of the court procedure and the other parties involved in the hearing in this regard.
3. Have a run through with your legal representatives
- Schedule a video conference with your solicitors and/or barristers prior to the hearing so that you can go have a run through as to how the hearing will likely proceed and when your involvement in the hearing will be required (if necessary).
4. You need to be visible
- Courts and Tribunals will usually require those participating in hearings to be visible on camera (unless alternative arrangements are made with the court) and will require parties to be on mute at the beginning of the hearing until a party is required to address the court.
- You should not step away from your video camera/computer during the hearing unless there is a recess or the hearing is stood down for a period of time.
- Do not have other audio on (such as a tv, online video, radio, or other telephone call) while you are in the hearing, even if you are on mute.
- Be aware of your attire when appearing at a virtual hearing and dress appropriately. Ensure that your background is appropriate and does not contain anything private or offensive during the hearing.
5. Court rules still apply
- Whilst the hearings are being conducted via video conference, it is important to note that the rules of the court still apply in relation to, for example, giving evidence and the procedures of the court.
- The laws relating to perjury still apply – remember when giving evidence you are still under oath.
Even once stage 4 restrictions in Victoria are lifted it is likely that many hearings will be conducted by video conferences for some time.
If you have any questions regarding appearing at a hearing via video conferencing please do not hesitate to contact the litigation department at Madgwicks Lawyers.