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For the first time in Cyprus, a court decision has been made in a civil case with witness testimony being allowed via videoconferencing, pursuant to Article 36A of the Evidence Law, Chapter 9. This decision highlights the Cypriot courts’ recognition of the need to expedite changes and implement technological advances, in order to remain uniform with other European countries.

 Implementation of the governing law

In 2010, Article 36A of the Evidence Law, Chapter 9, introduced a new Cypriot legal order, which stated that in any criminal or civil proceeding, the court may, if deemed to be in the interest of justice, allow a witness who is outside of the Republic of Cyprus to give their testimony via videoconferencing. The intention of implementing this legal order was to homogenise Cypriot legislation with the development of technology. The European Union has also played a part in facilitating member states to make use of this procedure by issuing regulations and providing guidance on how to conduct testimony via video conference. It is worth noting that English courts have utilised the possibility of examining witnesses via videoconferencing since the early 2000s. 

Advantages of witness examination via video conference

The possibility of examining witnesses in court proceedings via video conference, as it has been proven, helps, among other things, to save court time and costs, to protect witnesses, and to present the case in the best possible way. It also, by extension, helps the courts reach the right conclusions, as it eliminates the risk that a witness important to the proceedings of the case will never be heard.

Introduction of legislation in Cyprus

Since the Cypriot legal order established this specific legislative provision in 2010, orders for the examination of witnesses via video conference are issued in serious, mainly criminal cases, with the jurisprudence treating their issuance in civil lawsuits with great reservation. Strict criteria have therefore been set, such as the need for a witness to present a serious health problem that prevents them from appearing in person.

This attitude of the Cypriot courts, however, contradicts the evolution of law in relation to the evolution of technology in many other countries. Despite the progress that exists worldwide in such procedures, in Cyprus there is still a regulatory gap, as in many cases there are no regulations monitoring the manner of conducting such procedures, except where there is a relevant European regulation.

Effective implementation of Article 36A of the Evidence Law, Chapter 9

On 9 April 2024, in a personal injury claim related to a marine accident, which handled by Nicolas Kyriakides, Stavri Kosiari and Christos Raounas for Harris Kyriakides, the District Court of Famagusta issued an order to receive testimony via video conferencing. The testimony would be conducted by a witness on behalf of the Claimant who resides and works in the USA and who was unable to appear in person before the Cypriot courts due to professional obligations. While hearing the said application, the court’s view was that it would not be in the interest of justice to dismiss it, as without the witness being examined via videoconferencing, the court would not have this eyewitness testimony available on which to deliberate and determine the outcome of the case.

As stated by the court, Article 34A of Chapter 9 is procedurally oriented and is sufficient to achieve the process of testifying via videoconferencing, as it gives discretion to the court to implement the videoconferencing process in such terms as to ensure the proper conduct of the procedure.

As to the reason for the inability of the witness to appear before the court, the court stated that the Applicant was able to prove that the witness’s inability was genuine. It is noted that, with the application, evidence of the professional status of the witness and his work schedule were submitted as evidentiary proof, which determined that it was impossible for him to leave his professional duties during the coming months. The Applicant alleged that a transatlantic trip, due to its time-consuming nature, would force the witness to miss work for days, with the foreseeable risk of negatively affecting his professional career.

It is noteworthy that, in this decision, following a suggestion by the Claimant, the court considered the new Civil Procedure Rules (New Rules, post-September 2023) for the exercise of its discretion, even though the case was being adjudicated under the Old Rules (pre-September 2023). Specifically, Part 1.2 of the New Rules was mentioned, as were their general spirit and purpose, which, as mentioned, was the modernisation of justice. The Court noted that, as a state, we have modernised our rules of civil procedure, which have now given us tools for a modern, efficient, qualitative, and speedy administration of justice, which will keep pace with the evolution and digitisation of justice worldwide.

Conclusion

The decision, even in the absence of a practice direction and the negative attitude of Cypriot jurisprudence on similar applications until now, is a reminder of the need to modernise the Cypriot legal order. Bold decisions are needed by the judiciary so that we do not fall behind in the technological development of justice.

 

For more information please visit our website microsite on Insurance and Personal Injury Law or send your queries at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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