XII. Remote hearing
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 which disrupted the court business, the Court has been gradually expanded the use of remote hearing (without requiring the physical presence of the litigants or their legal representatives in Court) to conduct court business by way of using the telephone or video-conferencing facilities (VCF).
A. Use of video conferencing facilities (VCF) for hearings
Use of VCF is one of the common ways to conduct remote hearing for court business.
The Court will consider which cases, for which hearings have been fixed for future dates, might be suitable for disposal (in whole or in part) by a remote hearing using VCF, and give appropriate directions to the parties in advance. It is a case management question within the discretion of the Court.
Sometimes, parties to the proceedings may make application to the Court for use of VCF. For example, a witness is residing overseas and unable to return to Hong Kong to give evidence in Court personally due to travel restrictions, and the party may want to apply to the Court to receive the witness’s evidence via VCF.
In making the case management decision as to whether the hearing shall be dealt with remotely, the court will take into account the views of the parties, the availability of VCF equipment, the subject-matter and nature of the proceedings and whether the proposed use of VCF is likely to promote the fair and efficient disposal of proceedings (including through the avoidance or reduction of delay) and/or to save costs.
B. Telephone hearings
Use of telephone is another way to conduct remote hearing for court business.
Again, the Court will take initiative to consider which case or hearing might be suitable for disposal by a remote hearing using telephone, and give appropriate directions in advance. In light of its nature, telephone hearings will usually be applicable to short directions hearings and 3-minute list.
C. Browser-based VCF hearings
From 2 January 2021, the court has launched a ‘browser-based’ VCF option. It is a low-cost option, since court users will only need a normal computer (not a mobile device) with a camera function to connect to the court for VCF hearings. This new option intends to encourage the use of VCF facilities by litigants-in-person.