Judge halts court case and bans video proceedings because ‘noisy porn’ heard during hearing

A Sheffield Crown Court judge was forced to stop a hearing last week after loud pornography noises were heard over the common video platform, with the judge reported to have banned further video appearances.

Recorder Jeremy Richardson KC was hearing a case in which 13 defendants and a prison officer are accused of smuggling drugs and a mobile phone into prison. As first reported by The Times, some defendants were in court, but some appeared via the common video platform, which is an online network that gives His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) and the judiciary the ability to manage and conduct cases digitally.

A barrister told The Times that porn noises were heard during the hearing, with the judge desperately attempting to get the person responsible to mute their microphone. When that was unsuccessful, he ended the proceedings and ruled that future proceedings would not be held via CVP, including cases not related to the current one in hand. It is reported that the noises were narrowed down to a solicitor in the case, who said his computer had been hacked.

The CVP is a made-to-order platform introduced in 2020 as a response to the Coronavirus pandemic, to enable criminal cases to continue to be heard remotely. Last year, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Burnett of Maldon, revealed that a new and improved video hearings service (VHS) would be rolled out, with the Courts across the country currently using more than one system. The CVP is part of the circa £300m digitisation project that recently saw 68 Courts across England go on strike over the introduction of the Common Platform case management system.

Comment: While it’s difficult not to laugh a little at this, video hearings for procedural hearings are needed as one of the tools to help the criminal courts address a huge backlog of cases. In June, the backlog of Crown Court criminal cases stood at 58,271, compared with 57,870 in March, with Law Society of England and Wales’ president Lubna Shuja commenting in June that the backlog was decreasing “at a snail’s pace.” These types of online court disasters have decreased over the past two years as people have become au fait with working in an online world, and banning video evidence feels a bit like throwing the baby out with the bath water. However, the CVP has been unpopular with the judiciary, and this again raises the question over whether it would not be better to use a platform such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, which people are very familiar with and which have eliminated many of the early privacy issues that arose at the start of the pandemic.

See also:

Staff at 68 courts across England and Wales strike over new case management system 

 

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