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What is the law on audio conferencing in the UK?

Her Majesty's Court Service approved supplier

BT has been selected by the Her Majesty's Court Services (HMCS) as an approved supplier for the legal community to facilitate the arrangement of telephone hearings which can also help you eliminate the hassle and costs associated with travelling to a court hearing.

In April 2007, Practice Direction 23, which supplements Part 23 of the Civil Procedure Rules was updated to widen the use of telephone hearings. Telephone hearings are now expected to be the norm for the majority of the types of hearings in the county court listed below:

  • allocation and listing hearings
  •  interim applications, case management conferences and pre-trial reviews with a time estimate of no more than one hour
  •  any other application with prior consent of the court or at the request of the parties.

Telephone Hearing Exclusions

Telephone hearings are excluded where:

  •  all parties are unrepresented
  •  the hearing is of an application without notice to the other party
  •  more than four parties wish to make representations at the hearing (for this purpose where two or more parties are represented by the same person they are treated as one party)
  •  the hearing could result in the final determination of the whole or part of the proceedings.

Telephone hearing exceptions:

  • must be made at least 7 days before the hearing or such shorter time as the court may permit
  • may be made by letter.

Such applications will be determined by the court without the need of the parties to attend court for a hearing.

The usual application fee will apply.

HMCS telephone hearing scheme

What is the HMCS telephone hearing scheme?

The telephone hearing scheme is a nation-wide rollout encompassing all HMCS county courts and law firms in England and Wales to convert face-to-face court hearings into telephone based hearings.

The HMCS telephone hearing scheme has been introduced as a result of the change in law, allowing for certain court hearings to take place as a telephone hearing.

Why the change in law?

Previously the legal community were only allowed to use the format of 'telephone hearings' if the legal parties applied to the courts for approval first.

The Department of Constitutional Affairs (DCA) had run a consultation and pilot programme to investigate if it would be beneficial to the legal community for telephone hearings to be used more widely for certain types of court hearings, removing the need to apply to use audio conferencing to conduct a court hearing.

The results from the research conducted highlighted that by increasing the use of telephone hearings court users benefited by:

  • removing the need for time spent waiting at court for hearings
  • reducing travel by people not needing to attend court in person
  • courts benefiting from a more efficient use of both judicial and accommodation resources.

The research also showed that audio conferencing has been universally welcomed by law firms for court hearings, meetings and presentations which resulted in a change to The Access to Justice Act.

Therefore from 1st April 2006, the Access to Justice Act 1999 was updated and now stipulates that audio conferencing (also referred to as telephone hearings) MUST be used for certain types of legal case hearings, instead of a face-to-face meeting at court.

Further information

Links to further information about the telephone hearing guidelines:

How does BT Legal Hearings work?

BT Legal Hearings is an easy to use secure audio meeting service that only requires access to a phone to conduct a telephone hearing.

How it works

  • You can set up your telephone hearing by booking online, alternatively you can book by telephone
  •  You’ll be sent an email confirmation of your telephone hearing booking
  •  At the agreed time, the BT conferencing co-ordinator will dial out to participants (legal parties), according to the Practice Direction, and bring them into the hearing call
  • The conferencing co-ordinator will announce every new participant as they join the meeting and will bring the judge in as the final person, when the meeting is ready to begin
  • Our co-ordinator will then monitor the call to make sure everything is running smoothly and will be on hand to offer help to any participant during the meeting
  • The call will be recorded digitally and will be available on request for the courts if needed
  • BT Legal Hearings helps cut your practice costs by getting people together without the need to travel, whether they're in the office or working from home.

Key features

Dial-out service, participants and judges will be called directly and placed into the call by a conference co-ordinator

  • Calls are monitored by our co-ordinators, who will be available if help is needed
  •  All calls are regarded as confidential and a conferencing co-ordinator will respond to you if needed by pressing ‘*’ then ‘0’ on your telephone key pad
  • Option to book online or by phone.


A fixed charge option is based on a maximum of 5 participants and maximum meeting duration of 40 minutes.

For more information about pricing, please call the BT customer services on 0800 77 88 77 or + 44 (0)20 7402 0303.

Please Note

  • For Legal Hearings, in addition to the fixed price tariff, with over 5 participants or that continue for more than 40 minutes, BT reserves the right to charge additional minutes at the standard price per minute rate per participant
  •  The BT Legal Hearings service is only available to customers with a BT account and all attendees must be located in the UK

All calls are recorded and securely stored by BT for 7 years.

What are the benefits?

By using audio conferencing to conduct telephone based hearings, you and your firm will:

  • be compliant with the law - Comply with requirements of the Access for Justice Act of 1999 and be prepared for audio court hearings
  • benefit from travel and time savings - No travelling to or waiting around in court, convert waiting and travel time into billable working hours and save money on travel expenses
  • enhance your client services - Improve relationships by providing a faster and more effective service and flexible meeting arrangements to suit your client's needs
  • speed up the litigation process - Arrange hearings securely and at short notice, gaining access to information when you need it
  • be able to create billing efficiencies - By being able to view your conferencing bill online, you will be able to more easily cross-reference telephone hearing charges back to your clients
  • have improved access to justice - As it will allow court access for people unable to attend in person without the need to travel, which will also result in a more efficient use of courtrooms as cases will be heard more quickly
  • value for money - BT has been selected by the HMCS to be a conferencing supplier to the legal community based on being able to provide value for money as part of the selection process
  • security and peace of mind - BT has over 30 years experience in global conferencing. We have successfully managed Telephone Hearings since the Act was instigated.

How to book a telephone hearing?

Two easy ways to book your BT Legal Hearings call

BT Legal Hearings is designed to help you make the most of your busy schedules by offering you the option to book a telephone hearing call:

  •  online or,
  •  by phone  0800 028 4194

Note: We advise that if you are a Litigant in Person and wish to arrange a telephone hearing, then you must have an account or set up a new account to use this service. If you’re participating in a telephone hearing that is arranged by you or by another party, then please familiarise yourself with the telephone hearing procedure so that the hearing can run smoothly.

How to book a telephone hearing online

For the simplest and quickest way to arrange a telephone hearing, book online.

Step 1. Have the following information available:

  • your 'My Meeting Manager' user name and password
  • date, time and approximate duration of the telephone hearing
  • names and telephone numbers of the case participants, including the judge
  • the name and address of the court, the case name, court reference number and your internal reference number.

If you don’t have a conferencing legal account, register for a new account today

If you already have a conferencing legal account, but don’t remember your account details, call 0800 028 4194.

Step 2. Login to My Meeting Manager

Step 3. Enter your user name and password and sign in

Step 4. Click on ‘Book an Event’

Step 5. Book a BT Legal Hearing

Step 6. Enter details for your Legal Hearing, read and accept the Terms and Conditions and then click next

Step 7. Enter participant details for the Legal Hearing

Step 8. Review the details you entered for the Legal Hearing and click submit

Step 9. Save your Telephone Hearing details (you can also request an email to be sent to you)

Step 10. Return to My Meetings. There, you can view your Legal Hearing call details.

How to book a telephone hearing by phone

Step 1. Call BT Legal Hearings Customer Services on 0800 028 4194 and:

  • quote your name and account number
  • tell the co-ordinator the date, time and approximate duration of the hearing
  • provide the names and telephone numbers of the case participants, including the judge
  • provide the name and address of the court, the case name, court reference number and your internal reference number.

Step 2. That's it! You’ll then be sent an email confirming your booking.

Confirmation of your BT Legal Hearing call

Following your online / telephone booking, you’ll receive an email detailing all the information about your BT Legal Hearings call.

  • Double check the email for accuracy
  • Confirm with all relevant parties that the telephone hearing has been booked at the agreed date and time.

What happens on the day of your call?

  • At the agreed date and time, a BT conferencing co-ordinator will dial-out to each participant and bring them into the legal hearing call
  • The conferencing co-ordinator will announce every new participant as they join the conference and will bring the judge in as the final person, when the meeting is ready to begin
  • The conferencing co-ordinator will inform all participants before the hearing is to start that the hearing will be recorded, and if help is required during the call, simply press ‘*’ then ‘0’ to signal for operator assistance
  • The conferencing co-ordinator will then monitor the call to ensure everything is running smoothly and will be on hand to offer help throughout the meeting
  • The call will be digitally recorded and archived by BT, available as a transcript if requested by the court.

Hints & Tips

Here are some hints and tips to help you to make the most of your BT Legal Hearings service.

Booking a BT Legal Hearings call

Book your call online or contact us on 0800 028 4194 and then select option 1.

Be sure to check the accuracy of the details in your confirmation email on receipt.

Operator assistance

If you need help during your conference press ‘*and then ‘0’ on your telephone keypad and an operator will join your call to help with any requests you may have.

Conference call etiquette

  • You should treat a telephone hearing like a face-to-face meeting
  • Agree an agenda prior to or at the beginning of your call
  • Introduce yourself when speaking and encourage participants to do the same
  • Ask your participants to mute their line by pressing ‘* 6’ to cut out any background noise if neccesary. Be sure to keep your mobile phone a few feet away from your telephone as it can create a 'hum' when active
  • Take care not to rustle paper, type or make a noise that might disturb the call, unless your line is muted. Press ‘* 6’ to mute / un-mute
  • Press ‘* 0’ if you need help from a conference co-ordinator
  • At the end of your call, summarise the key actions and agree next steps.

Cancelling a BT Legal Hearings call

BT reserves the right to apply a cancellation or no show charge in certain circumstances. Details are as follows:

Notice given before the start  of a conference and associated cancellation charge:

  • Less than 30 minutes — 100% of booking fee
  • More than 30 minutes — 0% of booking fee.

BT No Show charging policy

For situations when it’s not possible for BT to connect all the participants onto the call, e.g.:

  •  participants tell us they aren’t available
  •  the contact number goes to voicemail
  •  nobody answers the call
  •  the customer organiser requests BT to cancel the call,

then a 'No-Show' charge will be payable.

Also, when a customer organiser requests BT to set up the call for an alternative time, then the organiser will need to cancel the original call and book a new time and date for the call. A 'No-Show' charge will be payable for cancelling the original call booked.

For any call classified as a no show, then a no show charge will be levied at 100% of the full booked value for the call.

Help desk phone numbers

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