As a student with The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs, it is always a good idea to acquire a clear appreciation of exactly how the English legal system works. From the conventions of Parliament that have accrued over many centuries to how evidence may be given in court in light of the fact that we now live in an advanced technological age. It is this latter dimension of our judicial system that we will turn our attention to in this article.
Good old-fashioned methods
Even though we now live in an age where there are numerous ways to communicate with each other, in many cases the submission of witness statements and other pieces of evidentiary support are still usually best served in writing. Courts and judges still prefer to receive evidence in writing with enough time to spare before a hearing, and there are very strict rules on how evidence is to be put together and whether or not it may be considered admissible to the court.
In many cases, evidence is still presented by witnesses in person. This can prove to be a very intimidating prospect for the witness, however, as he or she is forced to stand at the front of a live courtroom. The higher up in the court hierarchy witnesses find themselves, the more intimidating they are likely to find their presentation of evidence to the court.
Evidence by video link
Of course, it is not just the overall court environment that is likely to prove intimidating to the witness. Often in family law and criminal law cases, witnesses will have good reason to fear confronting certain people within the courtroom itself. The witness may be a young and vulnerable child, a partner of a person who has been accused of domestic violence, or the unfortunate victim of a horrendous crime who has been left shattered by that terrifying experience.
Thus, video link evidence presentation can and does prove to be a tremendous boon! As with written evidence, the law sets out myriad rules and regulations that must be adhered to in order for the evidence to satisfy legal requirements. But for the person who needs to rely on this technology, it is so much more favourable than having to look certain defendants directly in the eye.
Relaxed rules in Small Claims Courts
Over recent years, in an attempt to ensure that justice is more accessible to everyday members of the public at the lowest end of the judicial scale, laws pertaining to the submission of evidence in Small Claims Courts have been relaxed considerably. This means that more and more people should be able to become “litigants in person”: After all, there is no point instructing a costly solicitor for a trivial amount of money. Yet at the same time, why should you permit another party to get away with a breach of civil law that has ended up putting you out of pocket?
Written evidentiary support requirements are laid out very clearly to both the claimant and defendant before any Small Claims Court hearing, and the witnesses are likely to find that the overall experience of giving evidence in such a case is much less formal than in other cases.
Occasional acceptance of emails
The court system has even recognised the introduction of electronic communications. There are a number of occasions where evidence will be permitted via email; however, it is important to note that there are exceptionally strict rules about this. Furthermore, every single email must be sent in a very precise manner and only for set types of evidentiary support. To gain a clearer understanding of these requirements, you may find it useful to visit the following website: https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/email-guidance.
It is definitely fair to say that the judicial system has done its best to stay abreast of modern technology. Nowadays, there are more and more methods to rely upon to submit evidence, and this must be a part of the reason why our courts are being utilised more and more from one year to the next.