Hong Kong courts further expand remote hearings for civil cases
On 2 January 2021, a third guidance note on the use of remote hearings for civil proceedings in Hong Kong took effect.
This Phase 3 guidance note expands the availability of videoconferencing facilities and telephone hearings to all levels of civil courts in Hong Kong (including, the Competition, Labour and Small Claims Tribunals). It also expands the options for connecting to the courts’ videoconferencing facilities. Importantly, Phase 3 now allows videoconferencing through a lower-cost “browser-based” option.
The Judiciary's Phase 1 and 2 Guidance Notes represented important developments in the courts’ adoption of remote hearing capabilities for civil business resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Phase 1 took effect on 3 April 2020, during the general adjourned period, when the courts were generally closed save for urgent and essential court business. The general adjourned period came to an end on 3 May 2020. Phase 1 was limited in scope, and limited access to videoconferencing to those with hardware that was compatible with the courts’ facilities.
Phase 2 took effect on 15 June 2020 and expanded the availability of remote hearings to more hearings, in all the principal civil courts in Hong Kong, and using videoconferencing and telephone facilities.
The Phase 3 Guidance Note now expands the use of videoconferencing to all civil courts in Hong Kong, and allows for a more accessible browser-based option.
There is also a promising reference to videoconferencing facilities being used more widely "irrespective of the public health situation". This will be welcomed by a variety of court users, including in particular litigants in person.
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