HM Courts & Tribunals Service has agreed for the Common Video Platform to be the default option for solicitors involved in magistrates’ court proceedings across Wales.
The move comes after successful talks between HMCTS and The Law Society, which has been supported by members of its Wales Committee. Last week, the Law Society Wales Committee sent a letter to HMCTS highlighting concerns regarding safety in courts due to Covid, and called for swift action.
It has been agreed that in relation to CVP, written applications are not required and CVP requests can now be made orally on the day of the hearing.
Similar guidance has been issued to the Crown Prosecution Service.
Mark Davies, vice-chair of the Society’s Wales committee, said the move has ‘already made a huge difference already, both to his own practice and for others.
“The stance that will be taken by the court is that when notified by defence solicitors that they wish to appear via CVP, the request will be treated as granted unless the court decides it is not in the interests of justice,”
Davies hailed the concession as a ‘huge win’ for Chancery Lane.
‘This is an active measure for keeping courts safe and protecting our members while courts continue to remain open. It must now be effectively used together with continued and proper investment in it as well as other technology, both at the court houses and police stations.’
Davies explained that there is still ‘a lot of work to do’ to keep solicitors safe in Wales.
“The next step will be to see greater use of CVP in the police stations for both court attendance and interviews. Although the technology exists, there have been unfortunate logistical difficulties which have prevented this.
“Ultimately, the use of CVP will be a significant tool in reducing footfall in courts. That being the case, it is that imperative police forces in England and Wales follow suit and do so as a matter of urgency.”
Gareth Jones, Director at Gomer Williams Solicitors, told Legal News Wales:
“It is fair to say that CVP has, and will assist solicitors to stay safe, and to assist in the fight locally against the spread of Covid. Up until this point, we have been forced to attend Court hearings, despite requesting the use of CVP.
“A very large amount of credit must be given to Law Society Wales Committee, in particular Mark Davies, who have all campaigned tirelessly to allow us to us the technology that has been available to others, but up until this point, not those who defend.”
“The main priority must be the safety of all Court users in these difficult times.”
If you have a concern regarding safety in court houses and police stations, please contact the Law Society Wales office.