In March 2020, the UK government introduced stringent social distancing measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19. These measures have presented significant challenges for the family justice system. This article sets out the findings of interviews conducted with professionals in the North East of England who have represented or otherwise supported litigants in private and public children proceedings since social distancing measures were introduced. The findings reveal that whilst practitioners are broadly positive about their experiences of shorter non-contested hearings, they nonetheless have concerns about the effectiveness of remote/hybrid hearings in ensuring a fair and just process in lengthy and complex proceedings. In particular, the findings indicate that the move to remote hearings has exacerbated pre-existing barriers to justice for unrepresented and vulnerable litigants. The aims of this article are not to ‘name and shame’ any particular court; rather to highlight evidence of good practice in the North East of England and provide scope for improving practitioner and litigants’ experiences within the current restrictions.
|Journal||Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law|
|Publication status||Accepted/In press - 29 Apr 2021|