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Equality and Human Rights Commission Interim Report on Inclusive Justice during the Covid-19 Pandemic

John Bache, Chair of the MA, responds to the report

23 April 2020
Equality and Human Rights Commission Interim Report on Inclusive Justice during the Covid-19 Pandemic

In response to the increased use of video and phone hearings for nearly all hearings in the justice system to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published interim findings from its criminal justice inquiry, to help mitigate the risks that these technologies pose to disabled people. 

John Bache, Chair of the Magistrates Association, responded to the report:

The MA were very supportive of the EHRC inquiry into the implications of increased use of technology in relation to hearings in the justice system, as we have concerns about possible impacts on the fair access to justice for people with disabilities. In particular, we have argued for more evidence to be collected on whether people with certain mental health issues or other vulnerabilities can be supported to participate effectively via video link. Given the current need to reduce the transmission of coronavirus, we appreciate the necessity of some urgent cases being dealt with remotely. However it is important that any risk to a fair process is mitigated, which is why this interim report from EHRC is so vital. We therefore call on the government to implement the recommendations. We also note that some of the ways to mitigate risk (such as relying on Liaison and Diversion assessments and intermediaries) may not be possible where parties are accessing hearings from home. We would suggest it will be vital for additional factors to be considered for those situations – including ensuring parties have access to legal representation before any such hearings.

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