One brief diversion from the pandemic last year was a remote court hearing in the US which saw a lawyer unintentionally appear on screen in the form of a cute cat . The unfortunate attorney couldn’t work out how to turn off the cat filter and ended up pleading with the judge: “I am live. I’m not a cat.” His embarrassment was humorous and harmless. He took it in good heart. But the affair serves as a reminder of the pitfalls of using video technology for court hearings. Courts around the world swiftly embraced remote hearings as a way of ensuring the wheels of justice continue to turn during the pandemic. Covid-19 has played havoc with schedules. Hearings have been adjourned and the delivery of justice delayed. Hong Kong is no exception. It permitted the use of video conferencing in civil hearings considered suitable in the early months of the pandemic in 2020. Documents can be submitted electronically. But some traditions remain – the judge still wears a wig and gown. Such hearings have become important again this year with the judiciary announcing a general adjournment of proceedings between March 7 and April 11 amid the latest wave of cases. Even before the outbreak, the courts were facing a heavy caseload and a shortage of manpower. They could ill-afford the further disruption caused by the renewed spread of Covid-19. Hong Kong prisons stop lawyer visits, court trips for Covid tests on inmates The Law Society has been discussing with the judiciary the extension of remote hearings to criminal proceedings. Chief Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung raised this possibility in January. It makes sense to explore the move. Other parts of the world are already conducting criminal cases remotely. Britain has even floated the controversial idea of remote jury trials. But care must be taken to ensure the efficiency brought by remote hearings does not undermine the quality of justice. This is especially important with criminal trials where people’s reputations and possibly liberty are at risk. Adequate safeguards must be put in place. Hong Kong has not been as quick or as adventurous as other parts of the world in embracing digital technology in the courts. The need to use it during the pandemic should, as elsewhere, act as a catalyst for its greater use, during the outbreak and beyond.