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Court video hearings could hamper access to justice for disabled people, equalities watchdog finds

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Court hearings shifting to video link due to the coronavirus could leave disabled people at a disadvantage.

A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) outlined how it believes conducting trials without defendant being present in court could have a negative impact for disabled people.

The watchdog suggested it the court hearings could hamper access to justice for the disabled community.

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The report says: “Video hearings can significantly impede communication and understanding for disabled people with certain impairments, such as a learning disability, autism spectrum disorders and mental health conditions.

“People with these conditions are significantly over-represented in the criminal justice system.”

As part of a report in the Guardian on the issue, it featured a comment from David Isaac, the commission’s chair, who said: “Coronavirus presents an unprecedented public health emergency and we know that the government is working hard to allow our justice system to continue to function.

“It is vital that any new approaches should not accentuate the difficulties that already exist for disabled people in accessing justice. Equality before the law means that no one defending themselves in court should be disadvantaged because they are disabled – even during a time of national crisis.”

Recently, a Regional Stakeholder Network was set up to give disabled people a stronger voice.

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Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas

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