Witness Evidence in Remote Hearings: Important Guidance

By Mary Brunt


Trials are continuing to go ahead throughout lockdown, with many witnesses asked to give their evidence remotely via video calls to the court. For this to be a successful transition, many considerations must be considered by legal practitioners when arranging for their witnesses to give evidence at the hearing. Mr Justice Baker explains these in his judgement of the following case:

 

Case: Navigator Equities Ltd & Anor Deripaska [2020] EWCA 1789 (Comm)



The Claimant's applied for an order that the defendant be committed to prison or sanctioned for contempt of court. The Defendant denied being in contempt of court and sought to have the application struck out.

 

The comments made by Mr Justice Baker in relation to the live witness evidence in this case provides some important guidance about where a witness is able to give evidence from. The hearing was held remotely and a witness, providing evidence for the claimant, did so from counsel's chambers. Mr Justice Baker was surprised by this; it was not due to the fact that she was in chambers, but because permission had not been sought from the court. Nor had the court been notified that the witness would be providing evidence from counsel's chambers. There had also been no attempt to ensure the availability of a Bible to enable the witness to be sworn in.

 

Mr Justice Baker explained that where a witness is to give evidence remotely, the location they intend to give evidence from, and who (if anyone) will be with them, should be agreed between the parties ahead of the hearing. Any circumstances where the witness will be with any other person when giving their evidence should be approved by the court in advance.

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