It highlighted concerns around the lack of respect being shown to the courts by some people - including those too lazy to get dressed before taking part in a hearing.
During the pandemic, a new hybrid system was brought in for court hearings which meant most cases could be dealt with remotely.
However, a new report from the Department of Justice (DoJ) highlights concerns around the lack of respect being shown to the courts by some people - including those too lazy to get dressed before taking part in a hearing.
The DoJ asked a range of agencies, including solicitors, court staff and defendants in court cases, for their views on how the hybrid system, which uses technology called Sightlink, has worked.
“Some participants felt that when communicating online during virtual court proceedings, the solemnity of court was at times lost,” the report states.
“Reference was made to individuals using their mobile device to sign into Sightlink from a variety of locations, or appearing onscreen dressed in their pyjamas.
“There may be a number of distractions during a remote hearing taking place at home, such as the level of noise or people eating food. It was felt this was less likely to happen in face to face hearings, so sometimes the seriousness of the situation seemed less when communicating using remote technology.
“Concerns relating to people’s behaviour within the virtual environment were raised mainly by members of the legal profession. A sense of the formalities, etiquette and in general how people should conduct themselves during a court sitting can be lost remotely.”
Despite the concerns, most of those who contributed to the report said they were happy with how the remote court system has worked and hoped it was here to stay.
However, the report added: “In general, the wider court system is seen by some participants as currently ‘not fit for the future’.
“The need to adapt as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is seen as a ‘stepping stone’ to a more modern service.
“In today’s world where the majority of things are conducted virtually, some feel court service should be ‘evolving the business’ to do more things online. Remote technology was an essential tool for all involved in the court system during the pandemic. It enabled cases to progress and helped avoid huge backlogs.
“While improvements have been made since the start of the pandemic, some participants still thought the technology was not ‘sophisticated enough’ or ‘up to standard’ and that there was a lack of technological consistency between different courts.”
The report said it was recognised we live in a “modern world where many things can be done virtually”.
“Within the NICTS (Northern Ireland Court and Tribunal Service), the pandemic has perhaps just accelerated the process of doing things differently,” it concluded.