Members of the public to log on for video court hearings in new scheme

The first "fully video" court hearings involving members of the public are set to be held within weeks.

People will be able to participate in tax appeal cases without going to a court premises under a pilot launched on Thursday.

The video hearings will take place over the internet, with each participant logging in from a location of their choice, using a webcam.

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For the purposes of the pilot, the judge will be located in the courtroom.

The scheme is the latest measure announced by the Government as it embarks on a £1 billion drive to modernise the justice system.

Video technology is already used in criminal courts to allow some victims and witnesses to give evidence without having to come face to face with the accused.

Last month it was revealed that the first "fully digital" divorce applications have been submitted in England and Wales.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service is writing to potential participants this week to invite them to take part in the video hearings pilot.

Only tax appeal cases will be eligible for the initiative.

Officials said those who sign up will save time and money travelling to court and waiting for their hearing, which can mean taking a full day off work.

Judges will have the final say on whether the technology is used in a particular case.

Justice minister Lucy Frazer said: "We are spending £1 billion on transforming and modernising the justice system.

"Video hearings have the potential to improve access to justice and speed up cases.

"This pilot will provide important information - together with an increasing body of evidence from other countries - to drive innovation to make the wider system quicker, smarter and much more user-friendly."