Coronavirus (Covid-19) implications for dispute resolution

Coronavirus (Covid-19) implications for dispute resolution

Although the messaging from various courts and tribunal bodies is consistent in the desire and obligation to ‘continue with the work of the courts as a vital public service’, there is also a recognition that, in sustaining the administration of justice during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it will ‘not be business as usual’ in our courts, including in relation to the ability and willingness of people to attend courts and tribunals.

As such, we should expect to continue to see a number of changes to the process and procedure within the civil courts in England and Wales.

Some of the first areas to have been addresses and modified include:

  •  filing documents at court, and
  • attending court

Filing documents at court

 Thursday 19 March saw the announcement of the immediate closure of various court counters. With that announcement also came details of alternative ‘counters’ and/or email addresses to be used. For further detail on those changes, see: Royal Courts of Justice: Updated counter arrangements for the Queen's Bench Division and Royal Courts of Justice: Updated counter arrangements for the Court of Appeal Civil Division.

 Lexis®PSL Dispute Resolution provides (subject to subscription) further guidance on filing documents at court, in its Practice Notes, including those on:

 Attending hearings

Following the Lord Chief Justice’s message of 19 March 2020—see here, the default position is now that hearings should, where possible, be conducted with one, more than one or all participants attending remotely.

The message also stresses that, to seek to avoid an ‘intolerable level’ of backlogs and delay building up in the judicial system if too much court business is simply adjourned: 

  • the rules already provide for many procedural matters to be resolved on paper
  • parties are urged to ‘explore … the possibility of compromise’ before agreeing to adjourn any hearing
  • the court (namely designated civil judges working with operational and listing staff) will establish priorities and consider how hearings can continue to take place as safely as possible
  • there is a recognition that certain court matters (such as those involving injunctions (including breach of injunctions), committal and breach of undertakings) are likely to be more urgent than others and, therefore, will need to be prioritised
  • there is a recognition that certain parties and/or certain matters will be unsuitable for telephone hearings and that arrangements will need to be made for the safe hearing of such applications

HMCTS has updated its guidance on telephone and video hearings—see: Coronavirus (COVID-19)—Guidance on telephone and video hearings updated and further developments are anticipated in the light of the Coronavirus Bill.

Lexis®PSL Dispute Resolution provides (subject to subscription) further guidance on attending hearings by telephone and/or video and ‘paper applications’, including within its Practice Notes:

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About the author:

Virginia specialises in general domestic and international commercial litigation, arbitration and alternative dispute resolution.

Virginia trained, qualified and practiced with Pinsent Masons before moving to Marriott Harrison where she continued in practice for a further seven years.

In practice, Virginia acted in a variety of general commercial disputes covering areas including  intellectual property, fraud, defamation, misrepresentation, breach of contract, debt recovery, breach of restrictive covenants and company and shareholders’ disputes.

Virginia is Head of Dispute Resolution at Lexis®PSL and, when not focused on the strategic development and operational requirements of the Dispute Resolution module, her content work focuses on case management and evidence in civil litigation. She also regularly contributes to the LexisNexis Dispute Resolution Blog.