Virtual hearings are a type of hearing that take place using video conference software rather than in person.

When we hold a virtual hearing, everyone taking part will do so from a location outside of our hearings venues, which is often their homes. To hold virtual hearings, we use a video conference software called GoToMeeting. This allows everyone to see and hear each other and is similar to Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

How do virtual hearings work

To attend a virtual hearing, you’ll need access to a telephone or an internet enabled computer, tablet or smartphone.

We’ll send you a unique internet link or telephone number to call to join the hearing. If you’re joining a virtual hearing via the internet, once you’ve joined you’ll be able to see and hear everyone else. If you’re joining by telephone, you’ll be able to hear everyone else and they’ll be able to hear you.

If we need to send you paper work, such as your witness statement, we’ll send these to you by Egress Switch. This is our secure email system, which allows us to send confidential information to you securely

Supporting you during a virtual hearing

The support we can offer you is very similar to how we’d support you in a physical hearing, but there are some small differences.

Our hearings coordinator (previously panel secretary) will support you by answering any questions you have and by providing you with clear information about the how the virtual hearing will run. During the hearing day, our hearings coordinator will be your first point of contact. If you have any questions, please speak to them.

The panel also has the power to remove anyone from the virtual hearing who’s being disruptive. This power is only used when absolutely necessary.

The panel's Chair has a responsibility to make sure that everyone is able to fully participate and to create an inclusive environment. If you need a break for any reason, the Chair will make sure this happens.

If you have any specific needs, please let us know so that we can prepare before the virtual hearing.

Testing GoToMeeting

We’ll provide you with details of the virtual hearing. We’ll tell you what day the hearing is taking place and what time we’ll need you to be available.

We will contact you to conduct a test at least 2 weeks before the hearing to arrange a date and time to test your GoToMeeting. This test will check that we can see and hear you when using your device.

We’ll send you the details you need for the test in an invite via email. You should join the test on the computer, laptop, tablet or phone you plan to use during the hearing.

If you are using a computer, tablet or smartphone please download the free GoToMeeting app from the App store or Google play.

If you are using a computer, you will be able to do the test via your internet browser.

Before giving evidence at a hearing

Our hearings coordinator will contact you before you give your evidence at the virtual hearing. They’ll answer any questions you might have and talk to you about giving evidence.

Our hearings coordinator will also facilitate any pre-hearing conversations between you and our case presenter. The case presenter will talk to you about the hearing and, giving your evidence and will provide you with a provisional time they expect you to give evidence.

When it’s time to give your evidence, our hearings coordinator will invite you to join. Please don’t join the virtual hearing until you’re told to do so.

It’s important that you’re ready to join the virtual hearing and that you’re prepared for the hearing to start once you’ve joined.

We’d recommend:

  • Checking the date and start time
  • That you have access to the documents you need which could be your witness statement and any exhibits. Let the hearings coordinator know if you don't have a copy of your statement or exhibits so that we can email them you. 
  • Consider using two devices if you have them available to you, one for joining the virtual hearing and one for accessing hearings document
  • Make sure that the device you’re going to use to access the virtual hearing is connected to the internet or mobile phone network, is fully charged or connected to a power outlet
  • Having access to a headset with a microphone. This can make the audio clearer
  • Many smartphones come with earphones that have a built in microphone that can be plugged in to your computer or tablet.

Our virtual hearing tips for witnesses

  • Giving evidence can be challenging and we’d recommend that you give your evidence from somewhere where you feel comfortable and relaxed
  • We’d recommend choosing a room that is quiet, ventilated, comfortable and private
  • While the hearing is formal and we would expect you to dress appropriately, we also want you to feel comfortable in giving your evidence.
  • If you’re likely to be giving evidence for some time, make sure you have water to drink, and a box of tissues can sometimes be handy.
  • Decide on the device you will use to access the virtual hearing such as a telephone, computer, tablet or smartphone.
  • Please follow the instructions that our hearings coordinator gives. They’re there to ensure that the virtual hearing runs smoothly.
  • If you’re not talking please mute yourself and remember to unmute yourself when you’re ready to talk or invited to talk.
  • Speak clearly and slowly so that everyone can understand everything you’re saying.
  • If you’re referencing a document, please say the page number of the document that you’re talking about.
  • If your connection drops out this will be noticed by our hearings coordinator and everyone will be asked to pause until you return. If you do lose connection just re-join the using the same link.
  • We know technical problems can be frustrating, we’ll do our best to resolve your issues.
  • If you’re relying on a mobile phone connection, moving from one place to another can help improve your reception.
  • We know it can be tiring to sit at a computer or on the phone for long periods of time. We want you to be as comfortable as possible. If you need a break, just let the Chair or our hearings coordinator know.
  • Please don’t record the hearing or take any photographs of it.