The justice system has to go on, even during the pandemic. We learned that when a Texan lawyer unwittingly turned on a cat filter on a legal proceeding held on Zoom, which saw the clip go viral.
It has certainly been a period of adjustment for court reporters. Their role in preserving open justice and reporting on public court hearings had to be maintained during the pandemic.
To do so, the UK government introduced an emergency piece of legislation to handle the crisis: The Coronavirus Act 2020. This meant that UK courts and tribunals started to use video and audio technology so proceedings could be viewed by the public. Court reporters, by extension, had to make do with Skype sessions and phone calls to cover their usual beat.
One of those was Tristan Kirk, court correspondent for The Evening Standard. In this week's podcast, Kirk reflects on the ups and downs of virtual attendance at court hearings. One upside is being able to increase the number of courts he can cover in a single day. The downside is that joining remotely fails to capture the same drama as a physical hearing would.
However, video calls are not going away anytime soon. The Coronavirus Act has been extended until September this year, meaning remote hearings will continue until then. After which point, a new Police, Crime Sentencing, Courts Bill 2021 is likely to come into effect, making virtual attendance of courts and tribunals a mainstay, though to a judge's discretion.
Despite the drawbacks and potential pitfalls of remote court coverage, Kirk explains why the bill is reason to be optimistic about the future of court reporting.
Virtual attendance at court to be made a permanent feature, under the govt's new Justice Bill.— Tristan Kirk (@kirkkorner) March 9, 2021
Great news for #openjustice as a whole range of criminal & civil courts will be able to utilise the technology, and it looks to be open to press and public.