Since lockdown was announced by the Prime Minister on 23rd March 2020, Courts and circuits have had to develop their own guidance and protocols for deciding which cases will be heard remotely and by what means. They have had to do so rapidly and in the face of an ever changing environment of Government guidance and the need for social distancing.
As a result, we have a proliferation of protocols and guidance documents from Designated Civil Judges across England addressing, among other things, the steps that parties must take in order for their hearings to be dealt with. In many such documents it is made explicit that the likelihood of a remote hearing will depend upon the parties’ compliance with the specific requirements of the protocol. These include:
At Farrar’s we have consolidated the various guidance and protocols into a summary, aimed at accessing the steps that practitioners need to consider so as to have the best chance of avoiding adjournments.
In many cases, the content of Court bundles and the authorities to be relied upon will need to be provided a number of days in advance and only contain essential documents. It may well be beneficial to have counsel’s input. Judicial guidance to this effect was given in Re TPS Investments (UK) Ltd  EWHC 1135 (Ch),
“How is the instruction to restrict the electronic bundle to “only the documents which are essential for the hearing” to be followed? It seems to me that this is probably best achieved by engaging the advocate who will present the application in court at an early stage of the process of preparing for the hearing. Only they can know how they will wish to present the application to the judge, and what material will be required to this end.”
In other cases, the Court may seek the parties’ views as to whether the trial can go ahead remotely or needs to be adjourned. Courts are also asking for suggestions on the format of the hearing. Again, counsel will be able to help with the practicalities of giving evidence, submissions and the issues likely to be raised in the claim.
Counsel at Farrar’s can assist with early advice about the evidence required for a forthcoming hearing and with decisions on the appropriate format and get-up of the hearing or trial. Please contact the Clerks for further information.
The guidance & protocols in the attached summary are constantly being updated and it is important that the most up-to-date guidance is checked, and the entirety of the documents reviewed. Nonetheless, we hope that the summary provides a useful reference and first port of call.