As a specialist in international parental child abduction with a full case load of such cases at the dawn of lockdown, I was concerned how they would be able to be progressed in the Court of Session. Parents, whether they are defending a child abduction action or pursuing the return of their children, need a swift judgement from the court.
I need not have been concerned. My experience of the Court of Session's handling of these cases has been superb given the very difficult circumstances all of the personnel involved in such cases are working under. All of my cases have proceeded with little delay and while there has been the necessity for more court hearings given the challenges surrounding international travel, they have been accommodated.
Remote telephone hearings have taken the place of physical court appearances and written submissions instead of oral hearings. This has been helped of course by the fact that 1980 Hague abduction cases rarely have oral witness evidence but nevertheless, apart from the odd volume issue and wrong dial in instructions for hearings, cases have been dealt with efficiently.
The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 has been enacted by the Court of Session and guidance notes for practitioners produced that highlight new procedures for both the Inner and Outer House for all Court of Session actions, not just child abduction actions. The Inner House already has been hearing cases via video conference and that may come shortly to the Outer House too. This will allow cases where oral witness evidence is required to take place and hopefully allow the resumption of all court cases under our "new normal" lives.
The Court of Session and particularly sheriff courts have still some way to go to process all court disputes but our experience will be invaluable when the courts are fully operational again.
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