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Updated Guidance on COVID-19 measures in West Yorkshire Court Centres

The Leeds Designated Family Judge, Her Honour Judge Hillier, has provided updating guidance on COVID-19 measures to be taken in West Yorkshire Court Centres. The guidance is very welcome in the fast-changing circumstances and provides practical guidance for Court users and practitioners.

The guidance makes clear that the default position is that family hearings will be conducted by Skype for Business or by phone. Longer cases may be postponed in the immediate future but consideration will be given to use of Zoom and Virtual Courts, with a view to get them up and running soon.

The focus of the guidance at this stage is public law cases. ICOs will be triaged to determine their urgency and practitioners are urged to ensure there is clarity on whether interim threshold is agreed, what the issues are for determination, and whether the hearing will require oral evidence or submissions only. This will all need to be confirmed before the case can be listed and allocated.

The guidance follows the significant efforts from Court staff, the judiciary, solicitors and counsel over the past week to ensure that the Court system remains functioning during these difficult times and appropriate measures are put in place to minimise disruption as soon as possible. Our Charlotte Worsley has been working tirelessly as part of the working group alongside the Designated Family Judge to ensure concerns and queries from members of the bar and solicitors are raised and discussed.

Further guidance will be forthcoming in relation to non-molestation orders and private law children cases, as will as specimen orders for remote hearings.

The guidance can be found here (Covid19letter), and includes a helpful guide to using Skype.

PSQB is working closely with the Court staff and Judiciary in relation to these developments. Our clerks would welcome queries and are available to assist in any way they can. Our family team taking an adaptable approach and continue to be available for instruction.