Personal injury cases involving witnesses can now be heard remotely following the roll-out of more advanced technology, the Courts Service of Ireland has announced.
There were difficulties with the Pexip platform used for remote hearings since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in cases involving witnesses rather than simply involving affidavits.
It was not possible with the Pexip platform to have the witness and their questioner on the screen at the same time, nor was it possible for anyone wishing to intervene to indicate their wish to do so.
However, the Courts Service is now rolling out the advanced Pexip Infinity platform, which addresses these challenges and has been successfully trialled in a personal injury moot.
Around 5,000 virtual court hearings have taken place in the last year but the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on personal injuries litigation due to the number of claims determined on oral evidence rather than on affidavit.
An increasing amount of court business is now taking place in-person, but the Courts Service believes that remote hearings still have an important role to play – and “hybrid hearings” could present a model for the future.
Courts Service CEO Angela Denning said: “There are areas of court work that are opening up more because of the lifting of government restrictions particularly around travel.
“This includes increased numbers of family law case being listed, probate personal applications, and some witness cases in the High Court.
“Our priority continues to be keeping courts open and safe and as long as social distancing is in place we will have to manage the numbers of people in our buildings.”
She added: “Based on initial feedback, our experience to date and that of the judiciary, I would envisage a future of ‘hybrid courts’.
“A mix of physical and digital courts that would be suitable, to meet the varying needs of our diverse range of users. Covid restrictions allowed the disruption courts needed to embrace change.”