We are all learning to work differently under lockdown, and it has been necessary to do much of our work remotely in order to follow the Government advice to stay at home. This includes remote hearings where these are possible. The Transparency Project has published an interesting insight into the view of a family judge as to the issues from the judge’s point of view, in hearing a family case remotely. Some of these are practical and not insuperable, as we get used to working in this way and the technology improves. In many cases the most harm is done by delaying the case particularly where children are involved, and so it has to be dealt with remotely if the alternative is for it to be adjourned. There are concerns about a party giving evidence and interference with that evidence. Those of us working in the family justice system may not be aware of how important a judge feels it is to be able to strike some kind of rapport with the parties: ”you are deprived of all the means you usually use to create an atmosphere of trust, fairness and compassion from the outset”. The judge is also unable to assess the party’s level of anxiety and nerves. This is an important debate in how to deliver justice to families.
As a judge operating remotely – whether by phone, Skype or other digital platform – you are deprived of all the means you usually use to create an atmosphere of trust, fairness and compassion from the outset.