What goes into running a hearing?

Date 31st March 2022

Our Hearings Manager describes how a hearing is run on a ‘typical’ day

When we were setting up the Inquiry office in 2021, Covid-19 restrictions were in place and were expected to continue for some time. So, we took care to ensure our hearings facilities could support virtual attendance and streaming live on YouTube. This allowed us to reach a wider audience without increasing the risk of Covid-19 transmission, and gave us flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances.

We worked closely with our audio-visual partner to design and install technology which made delivering our first round of hearings last autumn successful.

A typical hearing day starts around 8am with testing of our audio-visual systems, which include connections to the hearing room, remote video links and the document management system.

Key staff have a brief meeting around 9am to run through the schedule for the day. If we have any virtual attendees such as witnesses, we will connect with them remotely in advance of the session starting to ensure they can both see and hear proceedings.

Around the same time, the Documents and Evidence Management Team double check what documents are to be displayed, as directed by counsel and the legal team.

Shortly before 10am we open the doors to the hearing room and once counsel are seated, Lord Brodie enters and opens the session. After confirming any directions for the day, he invites the witness is to join them at the table.   You can see what the room looks like in our short video here.

During the session we film proceedings, making sure the cameras are positioned correctly, the livestream to YouTube is running correctly and the sound quality is clear. We normally continue after a lunch break, finishing hearings by about 4pm.

Unless there is a restriction order in place, all livestreams are later available on our YouTube channel. Transcripts of each session are also made available shortly after.

At the end of the day we have a quick debrief to discuss how everything went, raise any issues or lessons learned, and go over the plan for the following day.

As with any event, even with careful planning and preparation, it’s impossible to anticipate every scenario so a pragmatic and realistic approach is essential.