Bristol court gives top marks to tele-hearing

Solicitors involved in Bristol's first court-based tele-hearing have welcomed the new development as "an excellent idea".

The tele-hearing, a pre-trial review of a commercial case, was the first to be heard at Bristol's Mercantile Court. It was suggested by Judge Raymond Jack QC, who presided over it at the end of November.

The hearing was conducted over a BT conference line, which allowed the solicitors and judge, who were all in different locations, to take part in a single telephone conversation.

The parties' solicitors, Andrew Williams, a partner at SJ Cornish, and Michael Freeland, a partner at Harold Michelmore & Co, are both based in Devon. They said the initiative saved them time, because they spent 20 minutes on the telephone instead of spending the morning travelling to and from Bristol.

Freeland said: "I think it's an excellent idea. In a lot of hearings you travel a long way and they are a complete waste of time."

He added: "It went very smoothly. It was quite easy to understand who should speak when. I can see a lot of cases where tele-hearing would be inappropriate, for example where there was a lot of paperwork, but I would certainly do it again."