DAC Beachcroft part of first ever Court of Protection Skype hearing

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DAC Beachcroft part of first ever Court of Protection Skype hearing

Published 30 March 2020

DAC Beachcroft’s Healthcare Regulatory team recently took part in the first ever Court of Protection hearing to be heard over Skype.

The COVID-19 pandemic has required the legal sector to adapt to a new, digital version of working which has seen many lawyers operate from home, instead of the office and rely heavily upon online communication channels – including Skype. This method of working has also been rolled out to a small number of Courts, including the Court of Protection, where the first ‘all-Skype’ hearing was carried out.

The case: CCG v AF, SJ, A GP, A Local Authority

A CCG v AF, SJ, A GP, A Local Authority looked at the best interests of a patient who survived a stroke, and whether it was in his best interests to withdraw clinically assisted nutrition and hydration if that were to lead to his death.

The matter was due to be heard over three days at the Court of Protection, however, with the COVID-19 pandemic looming and Government recommending social distancing (bearing in mind this is prior to ‘lockdown’), the court and parties were forced to think creatively of alternative options for the case to be heard.

Finding solutions

The decision was taken to explore the use of Skype and test runs were carried out in order to ‘stress test’ the system prior to the hearing.

DAC Beachcroft Associate, Matt Nichols took the lead on hosting the hearing and reassures that it went smoothly, commenting that “joining a virtual courtroom doesn’t create quite the same feeling of formality in quite the same way as entering one physically. However, while the technical side of things was challenging to maintain, that didn’t prevent the hearing from progressing smoothly”.

When it came to managing bundles and documents, this was also dealt with electronically with no additional issues created as a result of this: all documents were shared with participants before the hearing.


Future models?

The success of the first online court hearing could pave the way for potential future models – perhaps there is scope to find a bespoke solution that creates the distinct feel of the traditional court room; where documents can be shared easily during the process and the formality of the space replicated online.

It is unlikely that it will ever be the case that digital hearings become the default, however, there is certainly scope for the legal sector to consider digital options more fully. And if the legal sector does start to think about the pros of harnessing digital tools, this could pave the way for more digital solutions that enhance legal process generally, and provide increased efficiencies.

It is certainly reassuring that the sector is seeking ways to continue to operate at such a difficult time.

The first ever Skype hearing has been covered in The Law Gazette and The Times.

Authors

Corinne Slingo

Corinne Slingo

Bristol

+44 (0)117 918 2152

Matthew Nichols

Matthew Nichols

Bristol

+44 (0)117 918 2124

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