Holidaying barrister tele-commutes to court via video link to Marseilles

A BARRISTER whose holiday in France unexpectedly clashed with a court case gave his closing submission to a Birmingham judge via a video link.

The move coincides with the announcement of a pilot telephone summonses procedure launched by judges in Manchester and Liverpool.

Under the arrangement in Birmingham Judge Malcolm Potter, who sits at Birmingham High Court, agreed to move his court to the nearby Five Fountain Court chambers.

As a result, tenant Gareth Evans QC was able to deliver his closing submission in a personal injury case via a link from Marseilles, where he was taking a long-planned vacation.

Judge Potter presided over a conference room in the chambers, one of only three sets in the country to have a video link, which was set out like a court for the day.

Video conferencing has been used to cross-examine witnesses from other countries in the past, but this is believed to be the first time legal submissions have been presented in this manner.

Similar pragmatism can be found on the Northern Circuit where mercantile judges will pilot a scheme for hearing short summonses by a telephone conferencing system. That scheme is designed to make it easier and cheaper for lawyers who work outside Liverpool and Manchester.

The Northern Circuit scheme will come into operation on 2 September for summons expected to last 20 minutes or less. Solicitors, counsel and judges will communicate over the telephone for a predetermined time and the cost of the conference will be treated as part of costs of the summons for taxation purposes.