A Short Guide To Court, Phone & Video Hearings

Court hearings

A court hearing can be nerve wracking at the best of times but at the moment due to Covid 19 it is even more stressful. This short guide is to help you understand the current process if you are due to attend a hearing soon.

Courts are generally not open to the public at the moment, they have reduced staff in the court buildings and Judges are generally working from home. If you have a hearing it will either be on the phone or a video call. If the hearing is by phone you will receive a time and date for the hearing and the court will either ask for your phone number or you will receive a phone number to call and a passcode to enter. This just depends on which court is dealing with your case as each court is dealing with it slightly differently.

If you attend the hearing by phone or video you should be on your own and in a quiet place, family proceedings are held in private so no one should be with you during the hearing.

Phone hearings

If the court ring you, they may be on time or a little late – be patient and wait for the phone to ring. If you are to ring the court, ring 5 minutes before the time of the hearing, enter the passcode and you will be asked to give your name, say it clearly as this will be recorded and repeated when you join the hearing.

You then must wait on the line for the Judge and other people in the case to join. The Judge will introduce themselves and ask who is on the call, they will also tell you not to record the hearing as this is a criminal offence, the court will record the hearing.

Remember that it is still a court case, you should listen and answer any questions that are asked of you, do not speak over other people as it is difficult to hear everyone. If you want to say something, say your full name, so everyone knows who is talking. There may be two people with the same surname so be clear who is talking. If everyone is called Jones it can be quite tricky.

Remember you cannot be seen, this can be a good thing as you can listen to the case without being intimidated by the other party in the case but no one is aware if you want to say anything so speak up if you do. If possible, have a computer or mobile phone you can send emails to your solicitor on and be on another phone for the hearing – this is not always possible, but it can help with discussions. If something needs to be discussed your solicitor will ask for a break in the hearing so you can leave the call and speak to them privately.

Video hearings

If the case is a video hearing, this will usually be for final hearings or where evidence is being given. Follow the instructions to join and start the process 10 minutes before the hearing time in case there are any issues and try to do this on a computer so your phone is free to talk to your solicitor or barrister. When you join the hearing there may be a bit of a wait but stay on the line and be patient. It can be 30 minutes wait. Make sure you are on your own and in a well-lit room and you can be seen and there is a plain background behind you. 

When everyone is on the call remember it is a court hearing, everyone will be able to see you so wear smart clothes and act as you would if you were in court – don’t slurp a cup of tea during the hearing! The Judge will be watching you so do not say or make any comments you would not want to be seen, the Judge will give instructions to everyone but usually only the person speaking will be off mute. Listen and answer any questions you are asked. If you are giving evidence the court will ask you to affirm, which means swear that what you are saying is true as you would be asked to do in a court. 

The court will allow regular breaks but remember the hearing is being recorded and you should attend throughout the duration of the hearing. If the postman calls you should let someone else in your house deal with it.

Make sure you are prepared and have the court bundle or papers you have been given by your solicitor in front of you and a glass of water and tissues if you think you will need them. It is a stressful time and very strange for everyone and the Judge will be very patient.