Practice Direction on Electronic Hearings
Practice Directions support the Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT) Rules of Procedure and provide guidance about what the SBT expects of the parties and, in turn, what the parties can expect from the SBT. They assist in understanding the Rules.
An electronic hearing means a hearing held by conference telephone or some other form of electronic hearing technology allowing persons to hear one another, and includes hearings conducted by video conference.
In an electronic hearing, all the parties and the members of the SBT participating in the hearing must be able to hear one another and any witnesses throughout the hearing.
An electronic hearing before the SBT is to be held in private and the proceedings of the SBT at such a hearing are confidential. Only the parties to a hearing can participate in an electronic hearing. Parties in electronic hearings must make arrangements to ensure that the privacy and confidentiality of the hearing are maintained at their premises.
During the progress of a hearing the SBT may determine that another hearing format would be more appropriate and may direct that the hearing be rescheduled accordingly.
When an Electronic Hearing May Be Held
The SBT may hold an electronic hearing to determine:
- any procedural issues, or
- any other matter, unless a party objects and the SBT is satisfied that holding an electronic hearing is likely to cause significant prejudice to the party.
In deciding to hold an electronic hearing the SBT may consider any relevant factors, including:
- the nature of the appeal and whether it is suitable to hear the matter by electronic hearing
- the type of evidence that may be required for the hearing, including whether credibility is an issue
- the ability to conduct a fair and private hearing
- the number of persons who may be involved in the hearing including parties, counsel and witnesses
- the need to expedite certain types of appeals
- convenience to the parties
- a party's request for an electronic hearing and the reasons for the request
- the cost and efficiency of conducting an electronic hearing
- special circumstances, such as the unavailability of an interpreter
Notice of Electronic Hearing
A Notice of Electronic Hearing will be sent to the parties and will contain:
- the time, purpose and manner of the hearing
- a statement that the only purpose of the electronic hearing is to deal with procedural matters, if that is the case
- if the electronic hearing is to deal with matters other than procedural issues, then a statement advising the party of the procedure for objecting to an electronic hearing if it is likely to cause the party significant prejudice
- a statement that if the party fails to object to the electronic hearing and does not participate in the hearing, the SBT may proceed without the party's participation and the party will not be entitled to any further notice of the proceeding.
Objections to Electronic Hearings Rule 7.9
The SBT will not hold an electronic hearing to decide matters other than procedural issues if it is satisfied that such a hearing would likely cause significant prejudice to a party.
A party who objects to an electronic hearing must give notice of objection using the procedure set out in Rule 7.9 of the SBT Rules of Procedure:
- a party may object to an electronic hearing that has not been restricted to procedural matters within 15 days after the SBT gives notice that an electronic hearing will be held
- objections must be in writing and give detailed reasons why the use of an electronic hearing will cause substantial prejudice to the objecting party
- objections should be directed to the Registrar of the SBT or the Appeal Resolution Officer where one has been assigned
- the SBT will reject the objection if not satisfied the test of significant prejudice has been met
- the SBT may, with or without submissions, convert the hearing into another format by issuing a new Notice of Hearing
- where an objection is based on a particular concern, the SBT may resolve that concern and proceed with the electronic hearing
- where a party does not agree with the decision of the SBT to hold an electronic hearing the party may raise the objection again with the SBT member at the beginning of the hearing. The SBT member will determine if an electronic hearing will result in substantial prejudice to the party. If the SBT member accepts the objection, the hearing will be rescheduled into another format.
Effect of Failure to Participate in Electronic Hearing
If the person appealing fails, without reasonable cause, to be available for the hearing, the SBT may proceed in the absence of the party, and the party is not entitled to receive any further notice of the proceedings.
Written Submissions and Documents
Parties must comply with the same disclosure requirements as for an oral hearing. Written submissions and documents must be served on the other party and filed with the SBT in advance of the hearing in accordance with the SBT's Rules of Procedure and the relevant disclosure provisions in the Regulations.
Effective as of January 1, 2016