HM Courts & Tribunals Service Update 2 April 2020

Teacher Stern are continuing to provide litigation support throughout this difficult time. However, the courts inevitably are restricted both in terms of holding hearings and dealing with other orders of business. To assist you we have prepared a note on the current position.

On 1 April 2020 HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) published a list of priority work for County Courts, a summary of which is below.

Until further notice HMCTS will be open 8.00am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.

Priority 1 – work that must be done:
• Committals
• Freezing Orders
• Injunctions
• Enforcement of existing possession orders
• Any applications in cases listed for trial in the next three months
• Any applications where there is a substantial hearing listed in the next month
• All multi track hearings where parties agree that it is urgent
• Appeals in these cases

Priority 2 – work that could be done:
• Enforcement of trading contracts
• Applications for summary judgement for a specified sum
• Applications to set aside judgement in default
• Applications for security for costs
• All small claim/fast track trials where parties agree it is urgent
• Preliminary assessment of costs
• Appeals in these cases.

Please follow the link for the full priority list:

The High Court

The Royal Courts of Justice and Rolls Building have put plans in place to deal with the new situation. Any business that would be sufficiently urgent to warrant an out of hours application in normal times will be considered “urgent business”. Business which is not urgent business (“business as usual”) will continue to be dealt with as far as possible but urgent business will be given priority.

Judges will have discretion over what is urgent business.

All bundles should be provided electronically and all orders will be issued electronically for the time being.

For a full summary please see below:

Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal (civil) is only dealing with urgent work (applications and hearings) only. All hearings are being held remotely.

2 April Court Operational Summary

The work of courts and tribunals is being consolidated into fewer buildings. Some buildings are open to the public, some are staffed but closed to the public and some buildings are temporarily closed. The Royal Courts of Justice and the Rolls Building remain open but with decreased staff. Please follow the link for a full list of building closures:

Jury trials that are underway continue but there are no new jury trials being planned.

Physical hearings are being avoided wherever possible and remote hearings are being arranged.

General Guidance:

On 19 March 2020 HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) published detailed guidance on its priorities during the coronavirus outbreak.

The guidance states that:
• HMCTS plans to maintain access to justice and will keep courts open wherever possible. HMCTS has also identified alternative arrangements to maintain essential services, such as remote hearings.
• Courts will remain open (for now) to deal with top priority cases, which in the civil courts are cases such as applications concerning public health legislation or injunction breaches concerning vulnerable people.
• The judiciary will look at each hearing and decide whether the hearing is required to proceed or if it could take place using audio or video technology. Adjournments or paper consideration of procedural matters may be used if these are appropriate.
Judges or clerks will propose to the parties one of three hearing options:
1) A remote hearing (more detail below);
2) the case will proceed in court with appropriate precautions to prevent the transmission of Covid-19; or
3) that the case will need to be adjourned because a remote hearing is not possible and the length of the hearing combined with the number of parties or overseas parties and/or witnesses makes it undesirable to go ahead with a hearing at the current time.

Any changes to individual hearings will be communicated to those affected usually by email or by phone and HMCTS will keep its online case lists updated.

HMCTS will continue to update page with new guidance as the situation is being monitored closely. Please find updates here:

Guidance for Remote Hearings

On 20 March 2020 protocol was published regarding remote hearings.

Remote hearings will mainly remain public. The audio or video of the hearing may be streamed allowing accredited journalists to log in to the remote hearing.

Methods for remote hearings include (non-exhaustively) BT conference call, Skype for Business, court video link, MT meetme, Zoom and ordinary telephone call. Any communication available to the participants can be considered if appropriate.

During the hearing the clerk and the parties will need to log in or call in good time for the stated start time of the remote hearing. In a Skype, Zoom or BT call, the judge will then be invited by the clerk or court official.

The hearing will be recorded by the judge’s clerk, a court official or by the judge. The parties are not permitted to record the hearing. Arrangements can be made with privately paid-for transcribers.

All documents to be provided to the court should be in electronic form and provided to the court and all other parties in advance of the hearing. Electronic bundles should only contain documents essential to the remote hearing to prevent large electronic files that are slow to load.

Winding up Petitions

Winding up petitions are now all adjourned as follows:
Nos 1 to 20 in the Schedule be adjourned to 17th June 2020 (12 weeks), for a full list of adjournments please visit the Companies Court Winding Up List on the government website. Permission is given to any party seeking dismissal of a petition before the date of the adjourned hearing to apply on notice to the other party. The application must be supported by evidence stating the reasons for the application. Any such application will be listed in a general dismissal list which will be conducted via video conferencing.

If you have any questions about this update, please contact the Teacher Stern dispute resolution team on +44 (0) 20 7611 2339.