Grace Boorer provides practical tips for using the CVP platform for hearings

We have all being getting used to new technologies as the Covid pandemic suddenly put an end to in-person hearings. Although Courts and Tribunals are gradually returning to normality, it is apparent that remote hearings are here to stay, and there will be a move towards the use of a unified CVP technology. I gained some insight into the CVP platform when recently taking part in judicial CVP training. I therefore hope the below overview and tips will assist you in preparing for your upcoming CVP hearing.

Overview of CVP hearings

The CVP system adopted by Courts and Tribunals is very similar to Microsoft Teams. You will be sent a password protected link to access the hearing, and be permitted entry by a judicial assistant, who has ultimate control over the system. There is the facility to hide your camera and to mute yourself, which is particularly useful if you are an observer to the hearing.

There is also a chat function similar to that in Microsoft Teams. This is useful if you need to notify the judicial assistant that you are experiencing a technical issue, such as your microphone not working. However, this is not a private chat and can be read by all attendees at the hearing, including the Judge.

There is also a facility to share documents on the CVP platform, which allows a document (PDF format only) to be displayed to all parties. However, it is best to avoid relying on this function for document sharing, as the image appears in a small size on the screen and there is no facility to zoom.

Test the technology

A key frustration with electronic hearings is when the technology does not work. A difficulty with the CVP platform is that individuals are unable to test run the system in advance, as it requires the Court or Tribunal to send out a specific invitation to the online session. However, there are a number of things that you and your clients can test in advance of a hearing to ensure that you have the best chance of avoiding last minute technological issues on the day:

Check internet connectivity

For the CVP system to work effectively, it is necessary to have a strong internet connection. If the connection is patchy or weak this is likely to cause connectivity issues during the video hearing. Although, the administrator of the hearing can add you back into the hearing if your connection drops, this is likely to adversely affect the quality of evidence given, or, in extreme cases, could lead to a hearing being abandoned if the the evidence cannot be heard properly. If a client’s internet connectivity is a real problem that has been raised in advance, then it should be raised in case management prior to the final hearing.

Install the correct browser

The preferred browser for use with CVP technology is Google Chrome. Therefore, it will be helpful to ensure this is downloaded by your clients in advance of the hearing and that the link to the CVP hearing is opened in Google Chrome.

Look at browser permissions

For the majority of people signing into the CVP hearing during the judicial training there was no issue with linking the software to their computer video or audio. However, a number of people had issues with securing permissions for the CVP system to access their internal audio and video. Therefore, to avoid this issue in advance, it is helpful to double check that the browser permissions in Google Chrome allow your video and audio to be accessed. If this issue does occur on the day, then permissions can usually be enabled in the top right of the search bar on your browser. If all else fails, this is something the judicial assistant is there to help you with if you have last minute difficulties on the day.

 

Ensure electronic bundles are prepared in advance

As previously mentioned, there are very limited document sharing facilities on the CVP platform. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that electronic bundles are well-prepared in advance. This includes double checking that all parties, including the Judge, have the same copy of the bundle and that the page references match. Having large electronic bundles is best avoided, and real consideration should be given to which documents are necessary for the resolution of the case and will be referred to in the hearing.

Offer of additional client support

Once you enter the CVP hearing there is no facility to take instructions from your client in private. Therefore, significant thought needs to be given to how you can support your client both before and during the hearing. A pre-hearing conference is likely to be a must, particularly with a vulnerable client, in order to ensure that they understand the process and that they feel reassured in advance of the hearing.

A method of privately communicating with your client throughout the hearing also needs to be considered, something akin to passing notes during an in-person hearing. Unfortunately, there is no clear solution to this at the moment. Email or WhatsApp communication is a possibility, or simply requesting a time out in the middle of the hearing may be a possibility. Whatever you decide, it should be discussed with your client in advance so they are confident that they are able to voice their instructions to you when required, and this is able to be done confidentially.