How will COVID-19 affect my court case?
Mark Cummings 09-04-2020
In line with the government’s guidance to remain at home to stop the spread of COVID-19, the work of courts and tribunals has been consolidated into fewer buildings with many courts completely closing for an unforeseen amount of time.
This has created some uncertainty about how ongoing claims will proceed. To help with the uncertainty, on 31 March 2020, the Judiciary published a revised version of the Civil Justice in England and Wales: Protocol Regarding Remote Hearings.
The purpose of this revised Protocol is to allow hearings to continue as listed without exposing the parties to the risk of COVID-19. Courts and tribunals are making arrangements to conduct hearings through video, using platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, or dealing with hearings by telephone. The alternatives being that the hearing proceeds with precautions in place or is simply adjourned altogether, which of course the courts and the parties are trying to avoid.
Judges and clerks have discretion when deciding the best way to proceed. However parties can make submissions about how hearings should be dealt with, for the judge’s consideration.
New Court Practice Directions have also been introduced to support the revised Protocol. These are Practice Directions 51Y (Audio Hearings in Civil Proceedings) and Practice Direction 51Z (Stay of Possession Proceedings and Extension of Time Limits).
Practice Direction 51Y, has allowed the courts to direct that hearings be held in private to enable them to proceed remotely to allow for the proper administration of justice
Practice Direction 51Z, established that any proceedings for enforcement of an order for possession by warrant or writ are to be stayed for 90 days from 27 March 2020. It has also allowed parties to agree extensions to directions without the Court’s permission from 28 to 56 days. The courts are acknowledging that it can be more difficult to comply with directions during the pandemic, and so are giving parties the ability to agree to more time between them, if it is necessary.
The default position at this time is that hearings that are listed for no longer than 1-hour will be conducted by telephone. Longer hearings will be conducted according to how the judge and parties think is suitable, taking into consideration the facilities the court has available. All bundles should be filed electronically.
Here at Samuels Solicitors LLP, we continue to act for clients in a wide range of litigation matters during these uncertain times. If you would like to discuss a potential claim, contact us for a free, no obligation discussion.