Q&As

A key witness (factual and/or expert)/counsel/instructing solicitor is unable/unwilling to travel to and/or attend court due to the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19), what steps should we take?

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Produced in partnership with James Tunley of Lamb Chambers
Published on LexisPSL on 20/03/2020

The following Dispute Resolution Q&A Produced in partnership with James Tunley of Lamb Chambers provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • A key witness (factual and/or expert)/counsel/instructing solicitor is unable/unwilling to travel to and/or attend court due to the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19), what steps should we take?
  • Can the hearing proceed in the person’s absence?
  • Application for an adjournment
  • Unable or unwilling to attend?

At present, HM Courts and Tribunals Service have confirmed that, generally, the business of the courts and tribunals is continuing. The guidance is that as long as court users do not have confirmed or possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection or do not need to self-isolate in line with the National Health Service advice, they should continue to use the courts as usual. In the event that they are unable to attend either due to illness or the need to self-isolate, they should contact the court.

Can the hearing proceed in the person’s absence?

The first point to consider is whether the hearing can proceed without whoever is unable to attend. Depending on the notice given, it may be possible to find alternative counsel or to set up telephone/video conferencing arrangements, which is something that has been advocated by the Lord Chief Justice.

For further guidance, see Practice Notes:

  1. Remote hearings in civil proceedings via video-conferencing and telephone

  2. Non-attendance by the parties at trial

  3. Application hearings, in particular section: Non-attendance by a party

  4. Litigants in person—trial and non-attendance

  5. Witness evidence—giving evidence at trial, in particular section: Giving evidence by video link

  6. Expert testimony, in particular section: Attendance of experts at court

  7. Application hearings, in particular sections: Telephone hearings and video conferencing and Fully video hearings

In relation to the Technology and Construction Court, see Practice Note: TCC—determining applications, in particular

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