To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment his Department has made of the (a) needs of hearing impaired Court users, (b) functioning of live captioning and (c) challenges experienced by those people when participating in remote hearings; when and by whom that assessment was made; and if he will make a statement.
22 July 2021
Remote participation in hearings provides an alternative method for conducting a hearing. However, attending a hearing remotely will not always be appropriate. The option to hold a remote hearing is at the discretion of a judge, who will decide if it is appropriate and in the interests of justice to do so taking into account the needs of the parties involved. The allocation of court facilities will be provided accordingly.
HMCTS is committed to ensuring that remote hearings are accessible to all users including those with hearing loss. At the start of the pandemic HMCTS considered its public sector equality duty and completed an Equality Impact Assessment. This is regularly reviewed and updated.
The technology used to facilitate video hearings has the functionality to effectively support those with hearing loss. A range of adjustments can be provided, including speech to text reporters if live captioning was required and sign language interpreters. Additional support is also offered, such as regular breaks in a hearing.
Court and tribunal users are encouraged to get in touch before any type of hearing to discuss any particular adjustments they may need so that people are not treated less favourably because of their disability.
HMCTS staff have access to reasonable adjustment guidance and training. All guidance raises awareness of the issues people may face, and the reasonable adjustments which may help them to fully participate in hearings.
The Judicial College ensures judicial training promotes equal treatment by weaving equality issues and case studies into training material. The judiciary have access to the Equal Treatment Bench Book (ETBB), and learning materials which provide explicit guidance on working with diverse individuals such as those who are hard of hearing.