A screen shot taken of a remote hearing must be deleted by anyone who has it, a master has ordered under a change introduced by last year’s Coronavirus Act.
Master Kaye, sitting in the Chancery Division, said: “It is important that during this public health crisis court business can continue, and so far as possible, where appropriate, be conducted remotely in accordance with the overriding objective and in a transparent, open, and public way.
“To do so requires all those who wish to participate in a remote hearing to observe the requirements set out in section 85C.”
Section 85C of the Courts Act 2003, as inserted by the Coronovirus Act 2020, provides that it is an offence for a person to make or attempt to make an unauthorised recording or transmission of court proceedings, which includes images.
Master Kaye made the comments in a ruling on a property dispute. She recounted that “unfortunately there is a history” between the claimants and one of the defendants, Kathryn Ann Durford, “which has perhaps led Mrs Durnford and her supporters to lose sight of the conduct expected of them in relation to court hearings”.
She explained: “The hearing [in July] was conducted remotely. Mrs Durnford joined the hearing remotely as did someone who signed into the hearing as ‘Mrs Durnford’s Legal Friend’.
“After the hearing, a screen shot image from the hearing appears to have been circulated by a Mr Keith Gannon who described himself as a ‘witness’ to the hearing. The screen shot appears to have been taken by ‘Mrs Durnford’s Legal Friend’.
“As the other attendees were all identifiably either the parties or their legal representatives it seems likely that Mr Gannon was ‘Mrs Durnford’s Legal Friend’ alternatively he has by some means been provided with the screen shot image by ‘Mrs Durnford’s Legal Friend’.”
The screen shot circulated by Mr Gannon breached section 85C and must be deleted, the master said.
“When this judgment is handed down, I will direct that Mr Gannon and ‘Mrs Durnford’s Legal Friend’ are provided with a copy of the relevant paragraphs of this judgment.
“The parties and their legal advisers should provide a copy of the relevant paragraphs to anyone else who has, to their knowledge, come into possession of or circulated any unauthorised recording or image from the hearing.”