1 Is it possible for evidence to be taken by videoconference either with the participation of a court in the requesting Member State or directly by a court of that Member State? If yes, what are the relevant national procedures or laws that apply?
Evidence may be taken using videoconference equipment, both in the presence of the court of the requesting Member State and directly by the court of the Member State (in this case, Lithuania).
Article 1752(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Code of Civil Procedure’) states that information and electronic communication technologies (videoconferences, teleconferences, etc.) may be used for taking evidence. Article 802(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure states that a request for legal assistance by a foreign court or another authority is to be executed by the courts of the Republic of Lithuania in accordance with the law of the Republic of Lithuania. In Lithuanian courts, videoconferences are conducted in compliance with the above-mentioned requirements and other provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure and in line with the procedure established by the Description of the Procedure for the Use of Videoconference Equipment in Court Proceedings approved by the Resolution No 13P-156-(7.1.2) of the Judicial Council of 28 November 2014 approving the Description of the Procedure for the Use of Videoconference (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Description’).
2 Are there any restrictions on the type of person who can be examined by videoconference – for example, is it only witnesses or can others such as experts or parties also be examined in this way?
In accordance with Article 1752(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure, attendance of participants in proceedings at court hearings and oral testimony of witnesses in situ may be ensured using information and electronic communication technologies (videoconferences, teleconferences, etc.). Thus, parties to a case and witnesses may be heard by videoconference. Subject to the provisions of point 10.2 and point 13 of the Description and Article 217 of the Code of Civil Procedure, examination of experts may also be carried out by videoconference.
3 What restrictions, if any, are there on the type of evidence that can be obtained by videoconference?
There is no explicit prohibition enshrined in the legislation of the Republic of Lithuania on taking specific evidence by videoconference. However, under rules laid down by national law, videoconference may not be used to take evidence as referred to in Articles 204 and 210 of the Code of Civil Procedure (material evidence and a visual examination of material and written evidence in situ or a visual examination of a site) or other evidence the taking of which might involve the need to leave court premises, go to a specific place or take other physical steps in order to take evidence.
4 Are there any restrictions on where the person should be examined by videoconference – i.e. does it have to be in a court?
Under Article 803(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure, courts of the Republic of Lithuania may request legal assistance abroad from the Lithuanian diplomatic representations or consulates, foreign courts, or other official authorities. Point 2.3 of the Description also provides that the requested body which the requesting court asks to arrange a videoconference in the course of judicial proceedings may, apart from a court, be a public prosecutor’s office or a body coming under the Prison Department under the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania.
5 Is it permitted to record videoconference hearings and, if so, is the facility available?
Point 16 of the Description provides that, in cases specified by law or at the discretion of the President of the hearing, an examination carried out by videoconference may be recorded. Equipment required for recording the examination carried out by videoconference is available in the courts of the Republic of Lithuania.
6 In what language should the hearing be conducted: (a) where requests are made under Articles 10 to 12; and (b) where there is direct taking of evidence under Article 17?
In accordance with Article 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, court proceedings in the Republic of Lithuania must be conducted in the country's official language, i.e. Lithuanian. Persons who do not speak Lithuanian are guaranteed the right to use the services of a translator/an interpreter. The cost of interpretation services during a court session is paid for from the state budget.
In cases where requests are submitted pursuant to Articles 10 to 12 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1206/2001 of 28 May 2001 on cooperation between the courts of the Member States in the taking of evidence in civil or commercial matters (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Regulation’) and the request is executed by a court of the Republic of Lithuania, the Lithuanian court ensures the presence of a translator/interpreter for any participant in the proceedings who does not speak Lithuanian. Where evidence is taken directly by the requesting court under Article 17 of the Regulation, the request is executed in accordance with the law of the requesting court (Article 17(6) of the Regulation) and in the language determined by the rules governing the proceedings of the requesting court. If a court of the Republic of Lithuania, as the requesting court, addresses another Member State with a request pursuant to Article 17, the proceedings take place in Lithuanian, and the Lithuanian court ensures the presence of a translator/an interpreter.
7 If interpreters are required, who is responsible for providing them under both types of hearing and where should they be located?
Please see the answer to the previous question.
8 What procedure applies to the arrangements for the hearing and to notify the person to be examined about the time and place? How much time should be allowed when arranging the date of the hearing to enable the person to receive sufficient notification?
Under Article 10(1) of the Regulation, the requested court must execute the application without delay and in any case within 90 days of receipt of the application at the latest. Under Article 133 of the Code of Civil Procedure, persons participating in proceedings, as well as witnesses and experts, must be informed of the time and place of the hearing or individual procedural measures by summonses or notices. Persons participating in proceedings must be served with the summons or notice within such time limits as to give them sufficient time to enter an appearance before a court in due time and prepare themselves for the case. There is no legal provision determining a specific time limit for sending a summons or a notice.
9 What costs apply to the use of videoconferencing and how should they be paid?
An assessment of legal regulation and existing practices has shown that no costs are incurred in arranging videoconferences.
10 What requirements, if any, are there for ensuring that the person examined directly by the requesting court has been informed that the performance shall take place on a voluntary basis?
The national law of the Republic of Lithuania does not specifically require that a person to be heard directly by the requesting court be notified that the examination will take place voluntarily.
11 What procedure exists for verifying the identity of the person to be examined?
Point 13 of the Description provides that, for the purposes of identifying individuals who appear at a legal hearing, a person to be heard by videoconference must identify themselves and present a document confirming their identity so that the court hearing the case can ascertain the identity of the person. By decision of the requesting court, a person to be heard by videoconference may also be identified by other means.
12 What requirements for taking oaths apply and what information is needed from the requesting court when an oath is required during direct taking of evidence under Article 17?
Under point 10 of the Description, persons designated by the requested authority or other representatives of the requested authority are required, inter alia, to enable a person to be heard to take an oath (pledge) before the court and to sign the text of the oath (pledge). The wording of the oath taken before a court of the Republic of Lithuania is laid down in Article 186(6) of the Code of Civil Procedure. At the end of an examination by videoconference, a representative of the requested authority which participated in the examination must draw up a document confirming the examination, which must be submitted to the requesting court together with the text of the oath (pledge) signed by the person heard (if the person to be heard is required to take an oath or sign a pledge) and the evidence transmitted (point 14 of the Description). In the case of the direct taking of evidence under Article 17 of the Regulation, the requesting court should provide the text of the oath to be signed by the person to be heard.
13 What arrangements are there for ensuring that there is a contact person at the place of the videoconference with whom the requesting court can liaise and a person who is available on the day of the hearing to operate the videoconferencing facilities and deal with any technical problems?
In the courts of the Republic of Lithuania and other institutions that are equipped with videoconference facilities, there are persons responsible for the use, maintenance, and operation of the equipment. Under point 6 of the Description, the list of persons designated by requested authorities to be responsible for the use and maintenance of videoconference equipment and the arrangement of videoconferences, is published, together with their contact details (institution, telephone number, e-mail address), by the National Courts Administration on the intranet of the judicial system.
14 What, if any, additional information is required from the requesting court?
The requesting court must provide the information referred to in Article 4 of the Regulation. If this information is not provided or is provided incorrectly so that the request cannot be executed, the procedure laid down in Article 8 of the Regulation shall apply. Legislation does not specify any other information that must be provided by the requesting court.
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