Cameras, large high-definition LCD monitors, telephone conferencing equipment and microphones enable the people in Court to see and communicate with witnesses in remote locations.
The Court can administer an Oath or Affirmation to the witness, take their evidence, put objections to them, and identify to them the other people in the Courtroom and their roles.
Counsel and participants/witnesses should arrive at their respective Video Link venues about 20 minutes before transmission is due to commence to allow for familiarisation with the equipment.
A party to proceedings in the Tribunal who wishes to make use of the Video Courtroom must make a request to a Judge at a Directions Hearing. Ordinarily the request should be made not later than seven days before the Judgment Hearing, the Tribunal may shorten the time in an urgent case.
If the request is granted, the party must make immediate contact with the Registry to complete and file a Request for Video Link form and a Remote Site Specification form (both can be downloaded at the bottom of this page), with the non-refundable booking fee.
These forms will help to ensure that the videolink operator has the appropriate site details to arrange a test transmission prior to the time the remote witness is to give evidence. The party requesting the Video Link will be responsible for payment of all fees and costs relating to the use of the facility (see 'Cost of transmission', below).
Should the matter settle or Hearing arrangements be varied, it is the responsibility of the party seeking leave for Videolink evidence, to notify the Registry that the Video Courtroom booking be cancelled or adjusted. A fee may apply if the booking is cancelled within 24 hours of the scheduled time.
Slight delays may occur between the reception of the picture and of the accompanying sound, even with the most advanced ISDN link. Users of the system need to allow for this delay by pausing after speaking, so the remote witness has time to respond. Otherwise, there is a tendency for users to speak over each other.
It is important to note that all the microphones in the Court are sensitive and will, for example, amplify the sound of rustling papers or whispered conversations. This may increase the background noise heard by the remote witness, and can also make proceedings hard to follow.
The picture will carry a window showing the screen image being viewed at the other end of the link.
Remote witnesses should be advised before the transmission commences of the names of the presiding Judge and the Counsel (legal representatives) in the Court.
At the start of the transmission, the camera will focus on the presiding Judge, who will then ask the Counsel to identify themselves.
The remote witnesses should be informed beforehand of the practices of the Court – for example, the taking of an Oath or the making of an Affirmation (which will normally be administered from the Courtroom), and to not respond to an Objection until directed to do so by the Judge. Where possible some indication should be given as to the manner in which the witness may be given access or shown a copy of any evidence.
The Judge can exercise discretion on whether any assistance is provided to the remote witness at their location. In the ordinary course of a Hearing, the witness ought not take direction or guidance from any other person in the room or consult documents without the leave (permission) of the Judge.
Should parties wish to have a video recording made of the transmission, they should seek the permission of the presiding Judge before the Hearing, so that appropriate arrangements can be made. Parties will be required to pay a fee for the production of the video. All sound is recorded.
The normal provisions apply in relation to the preparation and supply of transcripts of proceedings.
Each Tribunal Courtroom has a document camera. A witness can be shown images of documents transmitted from the Courtroom and asked to identify them. It is important that Counsel agree on documents to be shown to the witness beforehand, if this is practicable. The Video Link operator will need to know the number and size of documents or objects, and the order in which they are likely to be shown.
The examination of a witness at a remote location will follow as closely as possible the practice as if the witness were in the Courtroom.
During examination, cross-examination and re-examination, the remote witness will see the Counsel asking the question. If objections are taken, the witness would variously see opposing Counsel or the Judge. In the Courtroom, the Counsel, the Judge and others present will see the witness.
The cost of Video Link transmission and associated charges arising will be met by the party requesting the video link (see Schedule of Video Link Charges', attached below). Such costs may become Costs in the Cause.
Every endeavour should be made to keep transmission to the minimum time required so as to conserve costs and Tribunal and technical resources. Counsel can assist by doing whatever planning is necessary for the proposed examination.