Skype first for Birmingham law firm

Birmingham lawyer advises in first trial via Skype in Court of Protection.

A Birmingham healthcare lawyer has acted in a trial which took place entirely over Skype due to Covid-19 – the first ever Court of Protection case conducted remotely.

Katrina McCrory, of Birmingham legal firm Mills & Reeve, acted on behalf of the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group in the three-day trial last week. Five sets of legal representatives and 11 witnesses all contributed from homes and offices across the UK, using Skype for Business.

The case, involving the decision on whether or not to withdraw medical treatment from a patient in their 70s, was considered too time sensitive to be put on hold. To protect the health of participants in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, judge Mr Justice Mostyn resolved for the trial to go ahead through online video. This was a first for the Court, which makes decisions on financial and welfare matters for people who can’t make them themselves.

Originally due to be held at Nottingham Civil Justice Centre, the trial went ahead successfully, with judgment issued last Friday. Providing a model for court action in the face of Covid-19 movement restrictions, the Judge also suggested that trials conducted entirely via video could become a norm in courts in the future.

Skype allowed all participants to see and hear the others taking part, as well as enabling the trial to be recorded, without risking the health of those involved. The Press Association were also able to attend remotely, to meet requirements that the case must be heard publically.

Katrina McCrory, Principal Associate and healthcare specialist at Mills & Reeve, said: “In the face of unprecedented circumstances, it was heartening to see all involved parties work relentlessly to ensure that the trial went ahead. The decision to conduct proceedings via Skype was made after due consideration of all participants’ personal circumstances and health concerns – with the Court ready to be agile.

“With the decision to conduct the case over Skype being just 24 hours before the trial began, the inevitable technical challenges were resolved to meet the tight deadline – meaning that, in the circumstances, the process worked incredibly well and allowed a decision to be made.

“Although due procedure would have to be formalised and witness care accounted for, the overall success of the case proved that a more flexible way of working is possible – with real team spirit involved on all sides.”

Jill Mason (pictured), Partner and Head of Health & Care at Mills & Reeve, added: “It was incredibly exciting as a firm to have been involved in such a landmark case, with the patient at the epicentre of decision-making throughout. We work hard to bring about a result for both the patient and our CCG client.

“The judge was keen to stress that though one of the first trials conducted entirely remotely, this certainly wouldn’t be the last – with the chance that, as Covid-19 restrictions continue, what’s ahead of the curve now may well become second nature in the coming weeks and months.

“With considerations such as the environmental cost of travel and hotels coming into play, the success of the technology paves the way for more remote hearings in the longer term. This case is a real example of collaborative innovation, paving the way for more choice in the future and achieving more, together.”