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Covid-19 – Amended Listing Priorities and the North Eastern Circuit

On 14th May 2020, Coulson LJ issued an update on the listing priority for cases in the County Court.

The guidance reminds court users that the listing is a judicial function and that a judge should consider all cases before they are listed.  Appropriate directions can then be given if the case is suitable to be heard either partly or fully remotely or if whether there should be a physical hearing in court.  When making these decisions the judge needs to consider carefully if suitable practical arrangements can be made including the safe attendance at court and available technology.  It will be appropriate for cases to be listed for triage to consider if they should be listed and if arrangements can be made for it to be done safely.

The cases before the court are now categorised as follows:

Priority work which MUST be done

  1. Committals
  2. Freezing Orders
  3. Injunctions (and return days for ex parte injunctions)
  4. The emphasis must be on those with a real time element (such as post-termination employment restrictions), noise or interference with property.
  5. Anti-social Behaviour / Harassment injunctions (not ancillary to possession)
  6. Production of persons in custody following Power of Arrest detentions.
  7. Applications to displace under s29 of MHA
  8. Homelessness Applications
  9. Enforcement work that does not involve bailiffs, such as third party debt orders (particularly hardship payments)
  10. Any applications listed for trial in the next three months.
  11. Any applications where there is a substantial hearing listed in the next month.
  12. All Multi Track hearings (including trials) which the judge considers to be i) urgent and ii) suitable for hearing (either remotely or in a physical hearing)
  13. Appeals in all cases

Other work which should be done

All other applications / hearings / trials which (subject to staff support and listing capacity) the judge considers i) should be heard and ii) suitable for hearing (either remotely or in a physical hearing).

Impact on the North Eastern Circuit

This announcement by Coulson LJ coincided with a meeting this week between Mr. Justice Lavender, Circuit DCJs and the heads of civil team from a select group of chambers including Park Square Barristers.

The feedback from the meeting is that the courts have utilised the circuit protocol released recently to triage as many cases as possible to ascertain which are ready to be listed for a hearing.  It is in the interests of all court users, solicitors and counsel alike, to assist the courts in this process.  To that end it is recommended that court users:

  1. Undertake a review of all ongoing cases and speak to their opponents to determine if their case is ‘remote ready’. This should be a proper assessment and the listing situation should not be used as a method of delaying the progression of case.  If the case is remote ready parties should contact the court.  Cases identified in this way have a better chance of being listed sooner rather than later.
  2. The courts have noticed that orders sent to solicitors asking for a response within 7 days about the listing of their case are not being answered. This is delaying the triage process and preventing cases from being listed.  The court recognise that people may have been furloughed or working from home.  If staff are furloughed steps should be taken to make sure their emails are monitored.   At this stage cases are unlikely to be struck out for failing to respond but they will face a considerable delay in being listed.  The delay could be 18 to 24 months.
  3. As CVP (the court’s on video hearing platform) becomes more available the court are likely to list cases and the reluctance of a party to have a remote hearing will not be a valid ground for opposing it being heard remotely.

The onus is on solicitors and counsel to work together to get cases ready to be listed.  If you require any assistance please do not hesitate to contact any of the clerks at Park Square Barristers who would be happy to help.

Contact the Civil team

Francine Kirk on 0113 202 8605