Coronavirus has clearly had a massive effect on the legal sector, particularly when it comes to the operation of the Courts and Tribunals system.
At present, despite the somewhat easing of government restrictions, Courts are prioritising those matters which require urgency, and which are most in line with public interest. That is not to say that you cannot make applications to the Court as you usually could, it just means that certain applications will be delayed as the number of court staff is reduced and as new procedures gradually become implemented into the court system.
Whilst you can still issue new civil claims e.g. debt claims and injunctions, it is likely that you will have to wait longer for these claims to be processed and issued. Please note, from 27th March 2020, claims for the possession of residential property were stayed for 90 days. You can find out more about this here: https://hopkins-solicitors.co.uk/covid-19-eviction-a-guide-for-tenants-landlords-home-owners/.
It may be that certain Courts have temporarily halted the acceptance of certain types of application. For example, some Courts are not accepting applications relating to the enforcement of Court Orders until the Court has capacity to do so once again. One example includes applications to summon judgment debtors to Court for questioning with Form N316. You should make enquiries with your chosen Court as to whether they are accepting certain applications still or not.
Helpfully, the Government’s website contains a lot of guidance on what is happening with the Courts and Tribunals service which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-courts-and-tribunals-planning-and-preparation#how-we-will-update-you-about-the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-courts-and-tribunals
They are also providing the public with weekly operational summaries which are updated every Friday at 5pm. You can find such updates here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/hmcts-weekly-operational-summary-on-courts-and-tribunals-during-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak.
They have also issued information as to which Courts have remained open during this unprecedented period, and have even produced a Courts and Tribunals tracker list which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/priority-courts-to-make-sure-justice-is-served. The list will show which courts are open for the public, and which courts have been suspended for both staff and for the public. This information will help users determine the nearest Court they could send applications to, should their local courts be closed.
In order to minimise the inevitable backlog of unheard cases, the Courts have now started to increase their use of technology, phone and video link in order to ensure that as many hearings are able to take place as possible. You can find out more information as to how this is being done and what would be expected of you in the following link: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/hmcts-telephone-and-video-hearings-during-coronavirus-outbreak. Please note, not all Courts will have the same capacity to deal with hearings remotely and therefore, some Courts may be facing more backlog than others.
Court users should regularly check the above websites for updates as they are posted. Make sure to look out for correspondence from the Court in respect of any hearings that may have been adjourned or listed as a remote hearing instead. You are able to write into the Court, ideally after consulting the other party as to their intentions, to request an adjournment of an upcoming hearing if you feel that it could not reasonably go ahead remotely. The judge can then consider your reasoning to decide on the most appropriate action.
You should essentially prepare for upcoming hearings and comply with court directions as if it were business as usual, unless told or agreed otherwise. Despite Covid-19, non-compliance with court deadlines can still carry sanctions. Even though you can apply to the Court to seek relief from sanctions, such relief is not always guaranteed. If you feel that you are not able to comply with certain directions and deadlines, then you should raise this with the other party and seek out an extension appropriately.
If you have any questions in relation to managing your existing Court applications or you are wanting to make a new application, please get in touch with our Litigation team who will be happy to help on 01623468468 or by filling in the enquiry form below.Request a Callback
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