The Government considered the made affirmative procedure to be appropriate so that the temporary and emergency legislation it replaces (contained in section 55 and Schedule 25 of the Coronavirus Act 2020) could be removed from the statute book as soon as possible. That part of the Coronavirus Act was due to expire on 25 March 2022 but was temporarily extended for a period of up to six months in order to ensure that this replacement primary legislation–and its enabling secondary legislation–was in place. A smooth transition from the Coronavirus Act remote observation framework to its permanent Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Act 2022 replacement was vital in order to ensure there was minimal disruption to the operation of our courts and tribunals.
This replacement remote observation framework also resolves some known issues with the emergency Coronavirus Act powers it replaces by ensuring that the Court of Protection, coroners’ courts, and tribunals outside of the unified structure (including employment tribunals) are explicitly covered by legislation to allow remote observation and provide necessary safeguards. It is therefore important that this new framework is implemented as expediently as possible.
As of June 2022, around 7,000 hearings a week rely on audio and video technology. The use of such technology is an important component of our court recovery efforts. Within this, remote observation helps ensure we meet our open justice obligations under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the common law. These remote observation regulations ensure that, subject to judicial discretion, all our courts and tribunals can rely on audio and video technology to hear cases whenever it is in the interests of justice to do so.
Finally, the primary enabling power for this SI–contained in the PCSC Act–has received more Parliamentary scrutiny than the temporary Coronavirus Act 2020 powers which it replaces.
Given the above considerations, the Government considered the use of the made affirmative procedure appropriate in this instance. This has ensured our courts and tribunals have an expanded, permanent and reliable legislative framework that more closely fits its needs during a critical time as we work hard to deliver justice and recover from the negative impacts of the pandemic.
6 July 2022