Court takes flexible approach to directions and hearing under Remote Hearings Protocol (COVID-19) (Gil v London Borough of Camden)

Court takes flexible approach to directions and hearing under Remote Hearings Protocol (COVID-19) (Gil v London Borough of Camden)

Dispute Resolution analysis: In circumstances where a party was unable to participate by telephone or skype in a remote hearing under the Civil Justice in England and Wales Protocol Regarding Remote Hearings published 20 March 2020 (Remote Hearings Protocol), the court gave directions for submissions to be provided by email (rather than orally), with judgment delivered by email with a deemed time of hand-down. The case is procedurally significant in demonstrating the the court’s flexibility of approach in seeking to accommodate parties’ circumstances, and the proper administration of justice, further to the COVID-19 pandemic. Written by Danielle Carr, partner, at Rosenblatt Limited.

Gil v London Borough of Camden [2020] EWHC 735 (QB) (27 March 2020)

What are the practical implications of this case?

This case highlights innovative approaches taken by the court in its directions for hearing and handing down judgment, in light of the Remote Hearings Protocol (further to the COVID-19 pandemic). Note, although the version dated 20 March 2020 was relevant to this case, the Remote Hearings Protocol was updated on 26 March 2020 and is available here:Guidance on civil court hearings issued in light of coronavirus (COVID-19) updated, LNB News 01/04/2020 71.

In particular, the judge sought to give directions for the hearing on 24 March 2020 to take place remotely in accordance with the Remote Hearings Protocol. However, Tipples J ultimately directed that submissions be provided by email. The direction was made in circumstances where the appellant, Ms Gil, a litigant in person, ‘has no problem communicating, or expressing herself, by email’ and could write down and email to the judge’s clerk everything she had prepared to say if the hearing had been possible by physical attendance in a court room. Indeed, Ms Gil considered this preferable to the cost of a hearing by telephone on her mobile (given the additional charges), and she was unable to participate in a Skype hearing as her laptop had been stolen. The judgment was also delivered by email.

Although parties ultimately did not make substantive further email submissions on the appeal grounds, it is a useful guide to practitioners on the flexibility of approach taken by the court at this time.

What was the background?

Ms Gil applied for permission to appeal and (if granted) for hearing the appeal against an order of the recorder. The recorder had dismissed Ms Gil’s appeal to the County Court (in respect of London Borough of Camden’s decision that Ms Gil was homeless and eligible for assistance but not in priority need) on the basis the recorder did not have any discretion to extend the time for Ms Gil to appeal and accordingly the court did not have jurisdiction to hear it. Ms Gill sought an extension of time for appealing and permission to appeal and (if granted) to appeal on the bases that: (i) the recorder’s decision was wrong as the appellant’s notice was submitted on time; and (ii) the recorder should not have proceeded with the hearing in Ms Gil’s absence.

Importantly, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the judge sought to give directions for the hearing to take place remotely in accordance with the Remote Hearings Protocol. Where a skype/phone hearing was not practicable, directions for email submissions, and written delivery of judgment, were given.

What did the court decide?

The court found that (even on Ms Gil’s evidence) the appeal to the County Court had been filed late, and absent any application for permission to appeal out of time or evidence to show a good reason for the delay. The recorder was correct to decide that she had no jurisdiction to hear the appeal and to dismiss it. Further the recorder’s decision to proceed in Ms Gil’s absence was a case management decision and there was nothing to show it was wrong in the circumstances. As such, the appeal had no realistic prospect of success and there was no other compelling reason for it to be heard. The application for permission to appeal was dismissed.

In addition to the innovative directions for the hearing (discussed above), the judgment was handed down remotely in accordance with the Remote Hearings Protocol. It was circulated to parties’ representatives by email and release to Bailii, with a specified deemed date and time of hand-down.

Case details

  1. Court: High Court of Justice, High Court Appeal Centre RCJ

  2. Judge: The Hon. Mrs Justice Tipples DBE

  3. Date of judgment: 27 March 2020

Danielle Carr is a partner at Rosenblatt Limited, and a member of LexisPSL’s Case Analysis Expert Panel. Suitable candidates are welcome to apply to become members of the panel. Please contact caseanalysis@lexisnexis.co.uk.

Subscription Form

Related Articles:
Latest Articles:

Access this article and thousands of others like it free by subscribing to our blog.

Read full article

Already a subscriber? Login