I am involved in a dispute, are the courts still operational?
We have a Protocol for the conduct of court hearings during the Coronavirus Pandemic, which will apply until further notice to all proceedings in the County Court, High Court and Court of Appeal (Civil Division), including the Business and Property Courts. The clear intention is that as many hearings as possible will take place remotely, although a small minority of hearings may have to be done in a court room.
After the changes to lockdown on 5 November 2020, will court hearings now go ahead in person?
No, the court and tribunal system is exempt from the new lockdown rules. The situation has not changed and the courts continue to prefer remote hearings wherever possible.
What if a remote hearing isn’t possible?
If a remote hearing is not possible the case is very likely to be adjourned. However the courts have made it clear that hearings will go ahead, unless there are exceptional circumstances or both parties prefer to adjourn. In some cases going ahead may mean having an in person hearing but whether that can be achieved or is even desirable will depend on the location of the hearing, the capacity and resources of the relevant court and the circumstances of the parties and their witnesses.
How will a remote hearing be arranged?
The court will contact the parties in good time before the hearing date about how the remote proceedings will be conducted. It will be decided whether they will be video or audio proceedings and the software that will be used. The main options being BT MeetMe, Skype for Business, Zoom, court video link, BT conference call or an ordinary telephone call. The court will record the hearing, but the parties will not be allowed to do so without the permission of the Judge.
The parties’ representatives are expected to be proactive in relation to remote hearings. They should try to agree the hearing method, time estimate, and how the documentation will be made available electronically. Remote final hearings (or trials) will not be held without a prior interim telephone hearing to discuss the suitability of the case for a remote hearing and the preferences of the parties and the Judge. The Judge and the parties’ representatives will discuss any outstanding procedural or practical issues.
Many interim hearings already take place by telephone and we are already used to dealing with those. Arrangements can be made for you to attend such hearings by conference call.
Are partly remote hearings possible?
Yes, in principle a hearing may be held with only part of the evidence or submissions being given or made in person and part remotely. Usually this will be because certain witnesses have an issue with attending court but the advocates and other witnesses do not. The interest of justice are always paramount and each case will be looked at according to its own circumstances and partly remote hearings will be fairly unusual.
If I need to go into court building will I have to wear a face mask?
As of Monday 27 July 2020, those attending Court buildings have been required to wear a face covering in the communal areas. This applies to lawyers, representatives of Landlords and to tenants.
The only reasons for not wearing a face covering in a communal area are:
- a disability or health issue that makes it difficult
- wearing one will cause the wearer severe distress
- if a deaf person needs to read the individual’s lips (though speech-to-text apps should also be considered)
- for eating, drinking or taking medicine.
How can Tozers help?
We can help with IT issues and can if necessary provide a room in our offices for you to use so that you can access our IT systems and fast broadband. If your case is due for its final hearing, we will discuss with you
- whether you are happy for the final hearing to take place remotely by telephone, video link etc,
- what practical issues need to be addressed
- which remote communication method would be best for the hearing
- whether we need to assist you with facilities of any sort
- any other matters of concern to you.
Updated guidance is published on the Government website periodically.
Last updated on 02/11/2020