Stuart Broom


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Georgina Jones

Senior Associate

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Stuart Broom


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Georgina Jones

Senior Associate

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20 April 2020

Court guidance and arrangements due to COVID-19


Over the last few weeks, there has been a significant amount of guidance issued by the various courts as they grapple with the practical impact of COVID-19 on how the justice system operates. We have set out the key annoucements below, and will continue to update this page as further updates are made available.

21 April 2020

Coronavirus Bulletin 6 – Information for Queen's Bench Court Users

Bulletin 6 sets out the procedures that have been introduced in the Queen's Bench Enforcement Section for dealing with permitted claims against trespassers.

20 April 2020

120th Practice Direction Update to the Civil Procedure Rules

A practice direction amending practice direction 51Z (Stay of Possession Proceedings and Extension of Time Limits) came in to force on 18 April, and will remain in force until 30 October 2020. 

The 120th update clarifies that the stay imposed on possession proceedings brought under CPR Part 55 does not apply to:

  • a claim against trespassers to which Rule 55.6 applies
  • an application for an interim possession order under Rule 55.28(1), or 
  • an application for case management directions which are agreed by all parties.
16 April 2020

Open court buildings

The Law Society has made an interactive map showing open court buildings available.

Coronavirus Bulletin 5 – Information for Queen's Bench Court Users (regarding service out of the jurisdiction)

The Senior Master of the Queen's Bench Division reports that a number of services usually provided by the Foreign Process Service have been suspended, including: 

  • service of judicial and extra-judicial documents from foreign courts
  • processing of requests for service of court documents on parties out of the jurisdiction by the Foreign Process Service
  • service in a country which requires service through foreign governments, judicial authorities or British Consular authorities
  • examinations of witnesses in respect of requests received from foreign courts, to be carried out under the direction of the Government Legal Department (private examinations are not affected).

Parties can attempt service on parties out of the jurisdiction without the intervention of the Foreign Process Service, provide that the manner of service complies with the Service Regulation, Hague Services Convention, or any other applicable bi-lateral treaty. 

Urgent applications under the Evidence (Proceedings in Other Jurisdictions) Act 1975 where English Solicitors are instructed can be submitted by email to the Foreign Processing Section, and any hearings will be listed and heard in the usual way.

Updated guidance on use of technology by the courts

The HM Courts & Tribunal Service has provided updated guidance on video and technology hearings. The key points to note are:

  • It is for the judge to decide how to use telephone and video hearings, taking into account the suitability of the technology, interests of the parties, and any issues regarding public access. 
  • The courts have taken a number of steps to increase the technology capabilities, including increasing the amount of teleconferences the courts can run using BTMeetMe, increasing its video conferencing capacity for Skype for Business and introducing a Cloud Video Platform, which uses Kinly videoconferencing software.

Update on Criminal Courts

As per the latest status update, there are currently no jury trials underway. 

The Crown Courts are dealing with a range of work, much of which is being done remotely. This includes sentencing hearings and all urgent applications, including applications for bail and applications to extend custody time limits. Pre-trial preparation hearings and further case management hearings are also taking place. 

Magistrates' courts are only covering urgent work, which includes priority trials and all custody cases.

7 April 2020

Temporary Insolvency Practice direction

The Temporary Insolvency Practice direction (TIPD) is in force until 1 October 2020.

All insolvency hearings are to take place using Skype for Business (or alternatives agreed in advance); note that there are variations outside of London.

Administration appointment documents which are filed outside of court hours are deemed to be filed at 10am on the next court day.

Statutory declarations which are witnessed remotely will not invalidate the insolvency proceedings.

For hearings before ICC Judges in the Rolls Building, Chief Justice Judge Briggs has issued a guidance note on 7 April 2020, stating that the following applications and claims would be deemed as urgent:

  • applications for leave under an order or undertaking pursuant to the Company Directors’ Disqualification Act 1986 and re-using of company names pursuant to the Insolvency Act 1986
  • public interest winding-up petitions
  • applications to convene a meeting for a members’ scheme of arrangement
  • capital reduction claims
  • cross-border merger claims.

Royal Courts of Justice Court of Appeal urgent business priorities

The HM Courts & Tribunal Service has confirmed that the Courts of Appeal (civil and criminal) are dealing with urgent applications and hearings only.

Civil Court listing priorities

The HM Courts & Tribunal Service has provided guidance on the civil court listing priorities:

  • First priority business includes freezing orders, injunctions, matters that have a real time element such as post-termination employment restrictions. Priority will also be given to any applications in relation to cases listed for trial in the next 3 months, and matters for which a substantial hearing has been listed in the next month.
  • Second priority business includes applications for summary judgment, applications for security for costs, applications or hearings under the Insolvency Act which concern the survival of a business or the solvency of a business or individual.
6 April 2020

Coronavirus Bulletin 4 – Information for Queen’s Bench Division Court Users

Users of the Queen's Bench Division should note that the Court Funds Office has introduced the facility to electronically accept deposits into Court and to make payments out of court funds.

2 April 2020

118th Update – introduction of Practice Direction 51ZA

Practice Direction 51ZA makes a number of changes to deal with parties' extension of time requests during the coronavirus outbreak, and will remain in force until 30 October 2020.

Under PD51ZA, the 28 day extension period which parties are able to agree between themselves for compliance with a CPR rule, practice direction or court order under CPR 3.8 has been extended to 56 days. 

For extensions longer than 56 days, an application to the court must be made, which will be dealt with on paper. If an application is made in respect of an extension order made on paper, that application will be dealt with at a remote hearing.

Under PD51ZA, a formal application is not required for permission to listen or view a recording of a hearing.

31 March 2020

COVID-19 UPDATE NUMBER 1 – Position Summary and Guides for Urgent Applications

As outlined in guidance by Mr Justice Snowden, where possible, the Business and Property Courts (BPCs) will conduct hearings remotely, either by telephone or video conference. If it is not possible to conduct a hearing remotely, it will be adjourned (unless urgent).

Parties and their professional advisers should cooperate in advance of any scheduled hearing to agree either the terms on which it can be adjourned, or a suitable means for the hearing, which can then be approved by the court either on paper or at a brief case management conference. 

The current instruction from HMCTS is only to use BT Meet Me for hearings by telephone and Skype for Business for video conferencing.

30 March 2020

Supreme Court working

The Supreme Court building is closed and all hearings will be conducted via video conferencing.

Announcements will be made online when judgment is to be given, which will then be streamed via the UK Supreme Court (UKSC) and Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) websites.

All applications and relevant papers for hearings must be submitted electronically by email to the registry. 

Parties are not required to make formal applications for extensions of time for any period of less than 3 weeks, unless the application relates to a hearing due to be heard in the following 6 weeks. The registry should be notified of any extensions agreed.

The Registrar is not currently listing new appeals. Appeals currently listed will go ahead via video conferencing.

27 March 2020

Priority courts to make sure justice is served

Notification of those courts which will remain open for face-to-face hearings; contains a link to a court and tribunals tracker.

Notice to court users of QBD interim Applications Court

The Interim Applications Court is closed until further notice. Interim applications should be sent by professional users via CE-file. Litigants in person without access to CE-file should submit applications by email. The applications must be accompanied by electronic bundles containing only those documents on which it will be necessary for the court. Further guidance is provided on the technical specifications for electronic bundles.

26 March 2020

High Court Business – Contingency Plan for maintaining Urgent Court Hearings

The Contingency Plan provides guidance on business that will be considered urgent.

The Contingency Plan defines "urgent business" as business that would warrant an out of hours applicant in any of the courts covered by the Plan.

Applications in relation to urgent business must be sent by email to the particular court's email address (listed in the Plan) and the listing officer will then work with the duty judges to make the necessary arrangements, for the hearing (to be held remotely).

Non-urgent applications will also be dealt with; however, urgent applications will be given priority.

First-Tier Tribunal, Tax Chamber – Directions for a General Stay

With immediate effect, all proceedings are stayed for a period of 28 days and all time limits in any current proceedings are extended by the same period. Parties may apply for these directions to be amended, suspended or set aside or for further directions.

Practice Direction Property Chamber, First-Tier Tribunal Lodging Applications and Documents by email and Areas in the Property Chamber

Recent guidance has confirmed that applications and appeals should be lodged by email. Further consent from the Tribunal is not required under the PD.

Information regarding hearings before ICC judges

All in-person hearings are adjourned. For urgent matters, hearing requests may be made by email to the court setting out the case details, reason for urgency, time estimate for reading and hearing along with essential documents for the judge’s consideration at a remote hearing.

Judges' preferred use for remote hearing is through Skype, so this should be used where possible; otherwise, a telephone hearing may be arranged (at the responsibility of the parties).

Bankruptcy and Winding Up Petition information will be published on the cause lists for the given days, but no in-person hearings will take place unless urgent. All non-urgent hearings will be conducted by Skype or telephone.

25 March 2020

Coronavirus Bulletin 2 – Information for Queen’s Bench Division Court Users

The latest information about Queen's Bench Masters' hearings and their contact details.

New Practice Direction – CPR PD51Y

PD 51Y has been introduced as a pilot scheme under CPR Pt 51, and will remain in force for the duration of the Coronavirus Act 2020.

The key points to note are:

  • If the court directs that proceedings are to be conducted by video or audio and it is not practicable to broadcast the hearing in a court building, the court may direct the hearing to take place in private.
  • If a media representative is able to access those proceedings remotely then they will be treated as public proceedings.
  • Hearings held in private must be recorded by video (where practicable).
  • If s.32 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 or s.85 of the Courts Act 2003 applies, the court may direct the hearing to be recorded by audio rather than video.
  • Provisional Practice statement – FTT Tax Chamber and Update to Guidance for the FTT Tax Chamber

    The Practice Statement is issued on a provisional basis for 6 months. During this time, there will be no hearings at which persons are physically present in the Tax Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal unless it is a priority case and permission has been granted by the Chamber President or his delegate.

    All applications and appeals will be dealt with on paper where possible, otherwise by way of a remote hearing (either by telephone or video (if available). Updated guidance has been provided on the categorisation of cases.

24 March 2020

Insolvency business in the County Court at Central London

Until further notice, no bankruptcy orders will be made in respect of bankruptcy petitions, HMRC and other petitions. On the first day of the hearing, the judge will order the petition to be relisted after 12 weeks, without the attendance of the parties. Parties other than HMRC can request an earlier remote hearing by email.

Applications will be dealt with on paper, with any required hearings to be conducted remotely. Public examinations will be adjourned unless a request for rescission, conclusion or suspension of discharge from bankruptcy is made by email, which will be dealt with on paper. Claims for extension of time to register company charges will be dealt with on paper and the court will accept evidence of solvency by email in place of the original charge.

Amendment to Direction issued by Employment Tribunal Presidents on 19 March 2020

From 23 March 2020, all in-person hearings either in progress or listed to commence on or before 26 June 2020 will be converted to case management hearings, to be conducted by telephone or other electronic means. Unless advised otherwise, those hearings will take place on the first day of the allocated for the hearing. Any additional days listed for the hearing will be cancelled. This Direction will be reviewed on 29 April 2020 and 29 May 2020.

Guidance on attending winding up list

The winding up list is adjourning petitions, with permission for parties seeking dismissal to apply to appear at a hearing, which would be conducted remotely by Skype or similar video conferencing technology. Applications to withdraw may be dealt with on paper.

23 March 2020

Guidance for Crown Court Judges

The Judiciary has provided guidance for judges on the protective distancing and sanitising measures required during this time.

Law Society COVID-19 information page

The Law Society's COVID-19 webpage includes confirmation that the government has confirmed that keyworkers include those "essential to the running of the justice system":

  • Advocates (including solicitor advocates) required to appear before a court or tribunal (remotely or in person), including prosecutors.
  • Other legal practitioners required to support the administration of justice including duty solicitors (police station and court) and barristers, solicitors, legal executives, paralegals and others who work on imminent or ongoing court or tribunal hearings.
  • Solicitors acting in connection with the execution of wills.
  • Solicitors and barristers advising people living in institutions or deprived of their liberty.

Review of court arrangements due to COVID-19 – message from the Lord Chief Justice

The Lord Chief Justice reports that the courts have put in place arrangements to use telephone, video and other technology to continue as many hearings as possible remotely. They will make best possible use of the equipment currently available; HMCTS is working round the clock to update and add to that. Some hearings, the most obvious being jury trials, cannot be conducted remotely.

Hearings requiring the physical presence of parties and their representatives and others should only take place if a remote hearing is not possible and if suitable arrangements can be made to ensure safety.

20 March 2020

Civil protocol for remote hearings

'Basic' guidance has been released covering the conduct of remote hearings.

The method by which all hearings, including remote hearings, are conducted is always a matter for the judge. All parties are urged to be sympathetic to the technological and other difficulties experienced by others.

The court and the parties and their representatives will need to be more proactive in relation to all forthcoming hearings.

Available methods for remote hearings include (non-exhaustively) BT conference call, Skype for Business, court video link, BT MeetMe, Zoom and ordinary telephone call.

It will also be open to the court to fix a short remote case management conference in advance of the fixed hearing to allow for directions to be made in relation to the conduct of the hearing, the technology to be used, and/or any other relevant matters.

The parties should, if necessary, prepare an electronic bundle of documents and an electronic bundle of authorities for each remote hearing.

19 March 2020

Protocol regarding remote hearings

As outlined by the Business & Property Courts, the objective is to undertake as many hearings remotely as possible. Remote hearings will be made available to the public, if possible, and recorded by the court.

The court and the parties' representatives will need to be proactive in making arrangements for remote hearings. Available methods include (but are not limited to) BT conference call, Skype for business, court video link and ordinary telephone link. The details regarding the hearing and the technological method to be used should be shown in the cause list.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Message from Presidents of the Employment Tribunals in England & Wales and in Scotland

The Presidents of the Employment Tribunals in England & Wales and in Scotland have directed that from Monday 23 March 2020 all in-person hearings will be converted to case management hearings, to be conducted by telephone or other electronic means. Unless the parties are advised otherwise, that hearing will take place on the first day allocated for the hearing, so that the parties can discuss how best to proceed.

Practice directions for First-Tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal

A pilot practice direction for the First-Tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal on flexible ways of working has been published.

Where matters can be determined on paper, they should be. Where hearings are required, applications should be 'triaged' to see if the hearing can be dispensed with (eg through provisional decisions, and seeking parties' consent).

Where reasonably practicable, hearings should be conducted remotely.

Tribunals will consider impact of COVID-19 when dealing with extensions of time and postponement of hearings.

A pilot practice direction on panel composition has also been made available. It permits smaller panels or single judges if a case would otherwise not proceed or be subject to unacceptable delay.

The Supreme Court

At this time, the Supreme Court building itself will remain temporarily closed. The Court is currently testing video conferencing technology that could allow it to operate key functions virtually. Further information will be available once testing is complete. The Court will continue to stream all hearings and judgments live via the UK Supreme Court (UKSC) and Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) websites wherever possible.

Remote hearings

HMCTS is working urgently on expanding the availability of technology, but in the meantime, is making use of phones, some video facilities, and Skype.

The default position now in all jurisdictions must be that hearings should be conducted with participants attending remotely.

Final hearings and hearings with contested evidence very shortly will inevitably be conducted using technology. HMCTS urges all, before agreeing to adjourn any hearing, to use available time to explore with the parties the possibility for compromise.

18 March 2020

Changes to Queen's Bench Masters Hearings

The Queen's Bench Division has made a number of changes to usual procedure, including:

  • Court counters (except Fees Office Counter) are closed and so documents should be filed electronically or left in the drop boxes.
  • The Urgent and Short Applications List is suspended from 23 March 2020.
  • Non-urgent hearings are likely to be adjourned.
  • To accommodate the backlog, the court plans to list hearings in July and in the Long Vacation in August and September.
  • Where possible, hearings will be conducted via telephone or Skype.
  • Includes an Annex with the requirements for electronic bundles.
17 March 2020

COVID-19 Court Order: QB-2019-001001 – Donald O'Driscoll v F.I.V.E. Bianchi SpA

Master Davison ordered that the parties could agree extensions of time for up to 56 days by consent without further Order from the Court in light of the Covid-19 Pandemic. This is an increase from the general rule under CPR 3.8(4) that parties can only agree extensions of up to 28 days (assuming the hearing date is not prejudiced).

13 March 2020

Mechanical and Electronic Signatures provision

This provision makes clear that where any Civil Procedure Rule or practice direction requires a document to be signed, that requirement shall be satisfied if the signature is printed by computer or other mechanical means. The name of the person whose signature is printed must also be printed so that the person may be identified.

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