As the UK battles to come to grips with the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease which it causes, there have been a number of court closures in different parts of England and Wales.
Whilst the picture is emerging piecemeal and is subject to change, there have been indications that:
- In the South West and the North-East of England, possession claims based on tenancies and mortgages may be stayed until mid-June 2020; in Yorkshire judges have been adjourning these cases to the first open date after 14 days
- In the Midlands, judges are willing to hear Infant Approval hearings without the attendance of the Claimant or their Litigation Friend, so long as the birth certificate and signed 320 Court Funds Office forms have been filed in advance
- Some block lists, including possession lists at Basildon, winding-up petitions in the Royal Courts of Justice, and flight delay claims at Luton have been vacated. Some court staff have stated they are taking decisions about future lists on a day-by-day basis
- There is a possibility that Small Claims might start being adjourned nationwide as a policy
- HMCTS and the Lord Chancellor are urging as many hearings as possible to proceed using telephone or video technology instead
- The Lord Chief Justice has requested judges to be mindful of the public health impact of their decisions
- Evictions for renters are to be suspended, although the picture in relation to mortgage-based evictions is unclear
- The Government’s definition of ‘Key Workers’ includes ‘those essential to the running of the justice system’; this has so far been interpreted by members of the judiciary to mean Civil court staff, judges and advocates
The situation continues to unfold and all court users will continue to take their direction from the individual courts, HMCTS and central Government. LPC Law continues to offer and provide representation, both through attendance at court as well as by telephone or video conference.