Niamh Ross in remote four-day final hearing

April 14, 2020

Our Children Law barrister Niamh Ross recently took part in a four-day final hearing involving four third-party lay witnesses.

Niamh said: “It was agreed at a pre-trial review that the final hearing could proceed remotely, and straightaway the advocates and the court began thinking creatively about how this could be achieved. A number of potential problems were immediately apparent, including the possible need for witness summonses in respect of reluctant witnesses, and how lay parties without access to smartphones or laptops, or even mobile phone credit, could participate meaningfully in the hearing.”

“In the days before the final hearing, discussions were ongoing between the court and the parties as to which platform could be used and how the hearing could be recorded. Our clerks were brilliant, taking a proactive role in those discussions notwithstanding the fact that I was not acting for the applicant. Our Children Law Clerk Dan Johnson set the hearing up via Teams, and, at the judge’s request, I recorded the hearing in Teams, ensuring that the recordings were provided to the court securely.”

“Although all of the lay witnesses were able to join the hearing via Teams without any difficulty and their evidence proceeded seamlessly, things became more complicated as one of the parties was remanded in custody hours before the final hearing began. However, whilst this delayed matters somewhat, with perseverance and creativity we managed to ensure the hearing could still be effective.”

“It wasn’t always straightforward, there were a number of teething problems, but we managed to avoid significant delays to the decision-making for two young children, and it really did show how much can be achieved with co-operation and patience from all participants.”

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