First UK commercial court case held using video conferencing
Sparq provided support for the first UK commercial virtual court case held using video conferencing due to COVID-19 working for Stewarts who acted for the claimants in the proceedings National Bank of Kazakhstan Another vs The Bank of New York Mellon & Ors.
In March 2020, and against a backdrop of increasingly disturbing global events, the Lord Chief Justice said that “we have an obligation to continue with the work of courts as a vital public service” and that “final hearings and hearings with contested evidence very shortly will inevitably be conducted using technology. Otherwise, there will be no hearings and access to justice will become a mirage”.
Sparq quickly reacted to the fact that the whole legal industry has had to adjust and adapt to the nature of how they work and redefine their offering during these unprecedented times into a more online or virtual environment.
The multiparty court proceedings were forced to go digital due to travel restrictions and social distancing measures that were put in place - the judge, barristers, solicitors, witnesses, stenographers and interpreters all dialled in from home into a secure virtual courtroom set up and controlled by Sparq.
With less than a week to set-up the seven-day trial, the law firm required a well-established video conferencing platform that would allow witnesses from England, Belgium, Kazakhstan and the United States to give evidence over a dispute of freezing $530m worth of assets.
The law firm required Digital Event expertise combined with a video conferencing platform that would work for all trial participants. It needed to be something that all parties involved had the necessary hardware and software that was set-up and functioning properly, they needed to share documents and liaise confidentially with one another throughout. Zoom was selected as the platform of choice and we were on hand to support when recommended by communication tool themselves.
"May I pass on my thanks to the instructing solicitors and the technicians who have enabled this hearing to take place. It really has been most remarkable, and I am very grateful for the co-operation which you have all displayed in enabling it to take place."
Mr Justice Teare
We ran testing for everyone involved ahead of the trial both individually and as a group including the judge the day before, this was essential so we could identify any issues with hardware or software before the trial began. To prevent any audio or video issues we limited the number of participants in the video conference room and only the judge, select members of both legal teams, transcribers and witnesses giving evidence were able to join the trial conference room. We gave both parties and their legal teams a private live stream of the video conference so they could follow it in real-time.
The judge completely advocated this new way, commenting at the end of the hearing that it had been “most remarkable” and complimenting the collaboration that had enabled it to happen. Witnesses and counsels also made comments during the trial about the effectiveness of the technology.
Claimants’ Solicitor commented, "Sparq provided invaluable support during the trial (they were present throughout). There was a message box directly on the platform allowing you to contact them. Sparq also arranged the private and public live stream links. While Sparq was engaged as the third-party service provider and additional fees had to be incurred as a result, it proved incredibly useful to have its team on board."
Sparq were delighted to become the lead technology partner on this project. The project concluded with outstanding feedback from all involved.