A virtual conference will be held to provide a forum for interested parties to discuss how civil business might be conducted once the pandemic is over.

The Lord President has asked the Judicial Institute to organise a conference, to be held virtually, to provide a forum for a discussion amongst interested parties about how Court of Session and sheriff court civil business might be conducted once the pandemic is over and courts do not require to operate amidst physical distancing restrictions.

Within a remarkably short time scale, SCTS has equipped a number of courts with the ability to conduct virtual hearings. Judges and practitioners have by and large engaged with these innovations.

Some of the new ways of working have, it may be thought, proved to be effective and efficient. The conference will provide an opportunity for those attending to exchange their experiences and evaluations of virtual and digital processes and to identify which would be worth retaining once the pandemic is controlled.

The conference is an all-day event scheduled for 10 May and will be hosted online using the WebEx platform.

The conference will open with keynote contributions from Professor Richard Susskind OBE, who, amongst other roles, has been IT Adviser to the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales since 1998, and The Right Honourable Lord Justice Flaux, who was appointed Chancellor of the High Court in February this year.

In the following three sessions there will be presentations by Scottish judicial office holders, members of Faculty and solicitors on their experience and assessment of conducting virtual:

  • procedural hearings and first instance debates  
  • appeals
  • proofs.

The intention is that there will be a core group of invited panellists, including all of those speaking at the conference, who will be able to see and hear all presentations and discussion and will also be able to contribute orally and be seen on camera.

The wider audience, known as attendees in WebEx, will be able to see and hear all presentations and discussion but will not be visible on camera and will not contribute orally. They will however be able to submit questions or comments via the WebEx chat function. These comments will be monitored by a moderator and submitted to the Chair of the event to be fed into the discussion as appropriate.

In addition all those attending are asked to submit in advance, if they wish, any personal comments or questions which they would wish the speakers to consider as part of the discussion.

Anyone who wishes to take part in the conference as an attendee is asked to register their interest by emailing civilconference@scotcourts.gov.uk. The registration deadline is 16 April 2021.

The conference programme, pre-conference reading materials and a WebEx invitation will be emailed to all those attending around two weeks prior to the event.

The same address, civilconference@scotcourts.gov.uk, should be used for the advance submission of any comments or questions for the speakers’ consideration. The deadline for submissions is 23 April 2021. The intention is that submissions received will be shared in advance with all those attending the conference unless you indicate that you do not consent.

The conference and the discussion will not be electronically recorded but will be minuted and there will be a report of the conference published.

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