An independent process evaluation has been published by the Ministry of Justice of a pilot of the use of fully video hearings, where all parties participate in a hearing remotely, in the First-tier Tribunal (Tax Chamber). This is the first pilot of fully video hearings conducted in England and Wales and the evaluation found that users reported 'high levels of satisfaction'.
It notes, however, that a significant amount of person-to-person support was given to users, which is unlikely to be sustainable if fully video hearings are widely rolled out, that most hearings experienced delays and technology difficulties, although most were resolved quickly, and that many users thought that a familiarity with video technology was required. In addition, some judges and HMRC representatives thought that some appellants acted less formally than they might have if they had appeared in court.
The evaluation was based on observations of the eight fully video hearings that took place in the pilot, from an initial 'pool' of 108 cases. Eleven cases were originally due to be held by video, but due to technical difficulties two ended up being conducted as telephone hearings and one was rescheduled as a physical hearing. Only two of the appellants – and three representatives – were interviewed after their hearings took place and the evaluation recognises that the people who took part in these eight hearings were probably not representative of all court users.