Jonathan Lowe, speaking today via a telephone hearing on behalf of Berrymans Lace Mawer LLP (trading as BLM), who act for the Defendant, Hastings Insurance Services Limited (Hastings), sought to have a future trial set for remote or video link under the guise of COVID19.
Since March 2020, there have been three trial dates set and adjourned for similar excuses.
During the telephone hearing today, Mr Lowe suggested a video link for the trial in these circumstances or if the court would not agree to that, then, some hybrid method for witnesses to give remote evidence with others, who were willing to brave the 'Rona', by attending the in-person hearing.
As everyone knows, virtual technology inevitably degrades the quality of human interaction according to the most recent independent report. Nuances may be undetected; misunderstandings may go unnoticed more easily. Empathy may be lost. There are some indications that the technology may affect court outcomes.
There are clear indications that video hearings and trials have suffered a negative impact as to the length of hearings required to finalise a case. In other words, while the initial assumption is that video hearings reduce costs, they may well increase costs for the parties.
A recent report has raised concerns about the disproportionate impact on particularly vulnerable groups and it can be hard to recognise when one of the participants has a disability or support requirement when they appear in court in person, and even harder when they appear via video.
This same research suggests that video conferencing, hearings, and trials are not perceived to be ‘neutral technology’ - it is believed to shape interactions and impacts on people’s experiences.
In this case, due to the serious nature of the fraud and dishonesty allegations made against Hastings, the court thought it best for the trial to be set for an in-person hearing in the New Year, between March and May 2021.