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Remote Hearings – Unfair?

9 December 2020

Family and Childcare, News

Sarah Clubley of Williamsons Solicitors and all family solicitors in their offices in Hull, Driffield, Bridlington and Beverley have undertaken remote hearings during the pandemic.

Sarah has undertaken remote hearings where new mothers have had their babies taken into care during remote video and telephone hearings from hospitals.

Williamsons Solicitors - Family and ChildcareParents are joining online proceedings from home often without adequate technology or support, when life-changing decisions are made about their children.  Almost half of the parents and relatives involved in Family Court hearings during the crisis said they did not understand well what was happening.

There have been instances where litigants have appeared remotely in their pyjamas or whilst still in bed.

A recent report by the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory concluded that even before the pandemic struck in March there was a debate about whether remote hearings delivered justice.  Cuts to legal aid mean that since 2013 many litigants are no longer represented in family courts.

The report says problems experienced included ‘parents taking part in hearings remotely, alone and from their homes, lack of communication between parties and their legal representatives’ and communication difficulties during hearings.

Williamsons Solicitors - Family and ChildcareMost parents joined by phone rather than video link.  Those who needed an interpreter or who had disabilities faced particularly severe challenges.

The most difficult cases were those in which social services believed babies needed to be taken into care under an interim order shortly after birth.  They on occasions involved a mother joining the hearing by a phone from hospital.  Previously they were likely to have been represented by a solicitor in court.

‘There is nothing fair about a remote hearing which requires you to remove a newborn baby from its mother’.  ‘Remote hearings do not enable you to show empathy’.

The report says ‘mothers have frequently not been able to have any physical contact with their babies following their removal’ during the pandemic because of fears over infection.

One Judge expressed significant reservations about remote hearings for such sensitive cases.  ‘Removing children and making major decisions can have lifelong consequences.  Notwithstanding everyone’s best efforts, remote parties cannot sometimes be adequately engaged.  I have real misgivings about how fair it is and how fair it is felt and seen to be’.

Another remarked ‘I worry about making orders which may be very distressing to a participant, e.g. the removal of their child.  In court they’d at least have a lawyer with whom they could grieve, rant, consider appeal and have support.  By phone or video, they may be in their bedroom, alone and in despair, perhaps with the child and now awaiting a visit from a social worker’.

Sarah ClubleyAmong other responses was one from a Judge who said ‘My morale has massively improved since I started doing [physical] hearings again’.  Upholding the authority of the family court was also considered harder to sustain online.  One Magistrate heard a case where a litigant was plastering.

There was some more positive reactions, in particular the fact that hearings are now subject to a time slot and finish in that time slot is welcome and the days of sitting at court all day waiting to get on for 5 minutes appear to be over.

The President of the Family Division of the High Court, said ‘This emergency is without precedent.  Judges and others (solicitors and the courts) have worked tirelessly, and continue to do so, so that the family courts have continued to function without a break since the start of lockdown.

Sarah says anyone who is given notice of a remote hearing should contact the offices of Williamsons Solicitors on 01482 323697.


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Terry G

I carnt thank Williamson solicitors enough for what they have done for us and expecially nick gray who as been brilliant with us Thank you

Mr and Mrs Scott

As always Jane Cousins has done an amazing job for us, Jane always goes that extra mile and I would never use anyone else….we buy and sell a lot, and she always gives us piece of mind… The only downside is …think we should have a loyalty card with Williamson cos we my daughter is using you now and friends who we have told…. We would have a gold card by now 😂😂 Thanks again Jane and thanks to Emily and Sam …jan and Ian Scott..

Peter E

I was given excellent legal advice through every step of the claim and was always kept informed throughout the entire process. My special thanks to Yana Byelova whose legal expertise and guidance helped reach a satisfactory conclusion to a very complex and strenuous case. If I or any of my family and friends are in need of legal assistance I will most definitely recommend using Williamson solicitors.

Paul P

Helpful,explained the process in terms a layman could understand which was especially useful with medical terminology and not just the legal.I am very pleased with the professional service i received and would have no hesitation in recommending Williamson’s Solicitors to anyone or using them again should the need arise.Thankyou Sarah Jackson for what you have done for me.

Neil S

Honestly, can’t really say much about “Willismsons” as a whole, but regarding our solicitor, Sarah Jackson, I only have the upmost respect and gratitude. What was an extremely difficult time for us, was handled with care, compassion and total professionalism. Sarah is aware about how I felt she looked after us, and I would not hesitate to recommend her/you to anyone in need of assistance, with a gentle hand and assured advice. Can’t thank her/you enough. Neil Shepherdson.

S K

Very helpful and supportive company. Explained everythign very well and always happy to take the time to talk.

Barbara A

I highly recommend Yana Byelova who dealt with my personal accident claim. From my first contact she kept me informed at every stage and patiently and clearly explained anything I didn't understand. Yana is professional, courteous and supportive. I am pleased with the settlement of my claim.

Adele L

Fantastic from start to finish with Jane and her colleagues. Constant communication and available to answer any questions I had via telephone or email. Thanks all.

Mike C

We were selling my late father-in-law‘s house and, as we live 200 miles away and have no close family in Hull, we needed a solicitor who was reliable. We chose Williamsons (a) because both of my in-laws had used them for their wills and (b) because the reviews on this website were positive. We are delighted with the conveyancing service which we received from Jane, Emily and Samantha; the phone was always answered promptly, courteously and professionally, and both telephoned and emailed questions were also dealt with quickly and fully. Their letters and emails were well-written, unambiguous and comprehensive. We did not need to visit their offices, except to collect my father-in-law’s will. Our house-sale went smoothly, but I was confident that they could be relied on if there had been any problems. We feel that the service we received was excellent value for money. No hesitation in recommending Williamsons for conveyancing work.

Denise H

Sarah Jackson was always approachable, helpful and understanding, explained everything as things progressed in a way I could understand. Would highly recommend very efficient.

Mary H

Williamson solicitors represented me in my clinical Negligence Claim . On my behalf Arranged Consultation Opinion/Report from Various Medical Experts . As well as as The opinion and Guidance of a Excellent Barrister. Mr Nick Gray my solicitor was bouth Personable and Professional His Expertise Navigating me through a very Stressful difficult period ,His communication with me , his regular update as well as Committement to my Case were Exelente. All the said incredibly important to me as The Client /Patient. My Solicitor and Barrister were Effectively My Voice. A settlement Was reached for me. This has given me and my Family Peace of mind for the future. Kind regard and prayer. Mary Habarek.

Gary C

I contacted Williamsons Solicitors at the beginning of 2019 with regards to a serious injury to upper limb whilst on duty. I assessed the market for Personal Injury Solicitors and the reviews, client engagement studies and performances based against several major law firms including the "large specialist one in Sheffield" and based upon a variety of performance levels I decided to go with Williamsons. I made contact with them, provided a brief report as to my circumstance and awaited a solicitor to make contact. That was when I was contacted by Yana. It became very clear from day one that I was indeed in good capable hands and so began the case. All information and scene evidence was provided and after a very short period of time the solicitors received a statement from the other party accepting full responsibility. Together we worked on the claim and Yana left me in no doubt that I could sit back, spend my time getting my injuries repaired and recover without any undue worries, right up to the final moments of the claim, I left everything in Yana's more than capable hands and we have had a very good outcome. I hope I never have to use the services of a Personal Injury Solicitors again, however If I did have to use one again then Williamsons is the first choice, so long as Yana is still there.

Mr Leech

I have dealt with williamsons solicitors before and would recommend them unreservedly to anyone ,they are friendly ,efficient, very professional and they get the job done ,all the staff are courteous and nothing is too much trouble . I also really like the fact that hard copies of documents I required where posted to me rather than being emailed once again thank you for a first class service in these difficult times

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Eleni N

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Mrs A E

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Benjamin B

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Linda J

I found Williamsons kept us informed all the way through our claim . I could always speak to someone regarding any queries . The result of the claim was handled efficiently and was very successful .

Judith H

I am very impressed with Williamsons Solicitors. After initial set backs with a Barrister who was not willing to proceed (in his estimation our case did not have enough of a chance of winning) Williamsons did not give up and advised they had approached another Barrister who agreed that our case was good and should be pursued. Williamsons gathered information and evidence very diligently and to good effect - we won our case. If Williamsons had not persisted our case would have fallen at the first hurdle - we are glad we took their advice.

Julie T

I have received an excellent service from Yana Byelova who has been dealing with my claim. Even though these difficult times she has kept us informed every step of the way.

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