With a recent amendment of article 270 of the Civil Procedure Code, it has been provided for the first time that the court, at the request of the parties or ex officio, may order that parties and their attorneys perform all procedural acts during the hearing without being present in the courtroom. This hearing may be transmitted at the same time with sound and vision both in the courtroom and in the place where the parties and their attorneys are present (article 270 paragraph 7 of the Civil Procedure Code – «tele-hearing»). It is also possible for the court, at the request of the parties or ex officio, to examine witnesses, experts and parties without being present at the courtroom. This examination might be transmitted at the same time with sound and vision both in the courtroom and in the place of examination of witnesses, experts and parties (article 270 paragraph 8 of the Civil Procedure Code – «tele-examination»).
The implementation of the above provisions of the Civil Procedure Code was subject to the issuance of a Presidential Decree. On October 22, 2013, this Presidential Decree for the tele-hearing was published in the Government Gazette and therefore, the procedure of the hearing and the examination of the witnesses, experts and parties not being present in the courtrooms can take place by technological means as of that date.
According to this Presidential Decree an important condition is that the tele-hearing room be equipped with modern electronic equipment. The tele-hearing room may be for example the Embassy of Greece in the respective country where parties and witnesses permanently or temporarily reside. The recording of the hearing and of the examination is allowed, while it is also possible to submit or make use of documents either by scanner or by fax.
The Judge, the Secretary and the persons involved in a tele – hearing, must be present in the adequately equipped rooms before the scheduled time of transmission. After completing the tele-hearing the relevant minutes are signed, by those participating in the tele – hearing, stating the date and the place of the examination, the names of the persons who attended or were examined, the giving of oath and the conditions under which the hearing took place.
It is not uncommon for foreigners, who had visited Greece in order to attend a hearing, to feel frustrated about the time and money wasted because their case was postponed due to insufficient time, strikes etc. On the other hand, the hearing of a case may considerably delay because important overseas witnesses were not able to come to Greece to give their testimony. Therefore, the application of the new regulations along with the consequent acceleration in the attribution of justice may be a breakthrough for the Greek court reality.
Distrust, however, is expressed by the legal community as to whether these can be achieved, given the current lack of appropriate technology means in Greek courtrooms and the overall situation of the Greek Administration.
By Mr Asterios Syssilas, Senior Associate and Ms Anna Vassalou, Junior Associate.