Ben Holt, President, hosted a very useful and well attended meeting organised by BLS with HHJJ Cotter, Russen and Matthews for local litigators earlier this month ago to encourage a two-way discussion of court practices and procedures during this difficult time.
The key elements to note were:
- Hearings are being held remotely if health or welfare is not an issue. Telephone and VC facilities are being used but they tend to take longer, and different systems being used by court service and firms so check compatibility/ required internet speeds before conference starts etc. The Court service is looking to finalise its own VC platform but it is not fully available yet. The court will aim to facilitate other options. HMCTS will not allow Zoom to be downloaded onto judicial computers, but some judges are prepared to access Zoom via their personal computers. If a hearing is to be on Zoom, the lawyers will be asked to co-ordinate and undertake to record the hearing (and provide a copy to the Court).
- Unless a hearing is designated as private, it is public and this applies to remote hearings. The media should be able to easily access hearings.
- E-bundles should be kept as slim as possible. WP material could be submitted separately with password protection.
- The current position in Bristol is that there is nothing that the Court will not consider hearing, but work is prioritised and Central Court Guidance has been provided on listing priorities.
- Any case that is urgent should be dealt with, regardless of size, including where the result is likely to affect solvency
- Staffing levels are producing difficulties while trying to work with Govt. guidance. Understandably, this is causing delays and it will take time to sort backlog
- The Court is looking to be pragmatic with issues and will generally accept e-signatures.
- PTRs are likely to be required to e.g. check that a trial can be conducted remotely
- CPR 55 landlord and tenant claims
- have been adjourned generally with liberty to restore.
- It is difficult for Judges to know when to re-list these, but the intention is to work through as efficiently as possible and generally in date order
- Consideration is being made for additional Court time for these