At a hearing at the Medical Practitioner’s Tribunal Service any party can make an application to have a witness’s evidence heard by video-link.
The GMC Fitness to Practise Rules 2004, Rule 34(13) and (14) state:
‘(13) A party may, at any time during a hearing, make an application to the Committee or Tribunal for the oral evidence of a witness to be given by means of a video link or a telephone link.
(14) When considering whether to grant an application by a party under paragraph (13), the Committee or Tribunal must—
(a) give the other party an opportunity to make representations;
(b) have regard to—
(i) any agreement between the parties, or
(ii) in the case of a Tribunal hearing, any relevant direction given by a Case Manager; and
(c) only grant the application if the Committee or Tribunal consider that it is in the interests of justice to do so.’
In advance of hearings, the MPTS Case Managers consider these applications carefully and apply the test laid down, however in the Tribunal an application by the GMC to have a witness’s evidence heard by video-link is nearly always granted.
In my view in a case where the credibility of a witness is an issue between the parties it is often imperative that the witness give live evidence.
The GMC will often argue that video-link evidence is just as good as live evidence and that the witness’ demeanour can be assessed however there is a presumption that a witness’s evidence that is challenged should attend where possible and that live evidence is best evidence.
In recent cases applications have been granted simply on the basis of convenience which is my view does not meet the test and I fear that as the use of technology in hearings increases that the day of the “live” witness is drawing to a close.
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