Video hearings for the First-tier Tribunal (Tax Chamber) were piloted in 2018 as a part of a larger effort to transform and modernise the justice system. This includes a commitment of over £1.2 billion to modernise courts and tribunals with a stated goal of creating a system that is just, proportionate, and accessible to all users.
The use of video-enabled hearings has been standard in many jurisdictions for decades, for instance in bail hearings where the defendant appears from police custody, sentencing hearings where the defendant appears from prison, vulnerable or child witness testimony where the witness appears from a specially designed video suite, or expert witness testimony where the witness may appear from their office. In video-enabled hearings only one party (usually a defendant or witness) participates remotely while all other parties and court staff are co-located in a single courtroom. A video hearing is different in that all parties participate remotely.
The following research reports on a process evaluation of the user experience of the HMCTS video hearings pilot for party-to-state hearings, in this instance the First-tier Tribunal (Tax Chamber). This is the first pilot conducted in England and Wales for Fully Video Hearings (hereafter: video hearings), where all parties participate in a hearing remotely. The pilot used an early technical product to test the concept of video hearings.
The research draws on interviews with video hearing users – appellants, their representatives, and HMRC representatives; observations of video hearings and traditional in-person hearings; and interviews with Judges managing the hearings. The research is small scale and exploratory. The authors recommend that the video hearings pilot is expanded, data collection on the process continues, and data on outcomes is collected.