Current guidance as at Midday 19 March 2020 from the Leader of Circuit in relation to family (including Court of Protection), Employment and civil hearings :
- You will have seen the Lord Chief Justice’s Guidance in which use of remote facilities is encouraged in all jurisdictions. *Midday 19th March –further guidance issued by the Lord Chief Justice on Civil and Family Courts.* Please also see the Court of Protection’s Guidance , Guidance for the conduct of Financial Remedies business and the Guidance of the Employment Tribunals President on the Conduct of employment tribunal proceedings during the covid-19 pandemic.
- HMCTS has just published new guidance on how we will use telephone and video technology to support the justice system during the coronavirus outbreak and there is HMCTS guidance for court users
- Legislation for magistrates to conduct telephone hearings, including in family cases, is expected.
- I am not aware of any guidance in relation to civil courts specifically: please let me know if I have missed it.
- It is anticipated that the President of the Family Division will provide definitive guidance on Thursday 19th [EDITED MIDDAY – guidance received Thursday 19th here] It is understood that the President has communicated with Designated Family Judges to (1) consider whether longer cases of 5 days or more need to be adjourned; (2) encourage the conduct of as many hearings as possible remotely, using facilities including Skype which is being used successfully at the moment in the Court of Protection.
- FLBA is recommending the immediate cessation of in person hearings, as is the Bar Council. The FLBA notice is here.
- National guidance about avoiding the virus is here. Stay away from court if you have any of the relevant symptoms: do not take risks. If you decide not to go to court because you are unable to or feel it unsafe because of working conditions – including the unsanitary conditions which you are reporting in many courts – you will have the support of the Circuit. Bar Standards Board guidance is here. We will all, of course, do what can to keep our court systems running without putting health at risk.
- The FLBA are speaking to the LAA about funding issues, and Circuits will do the same. One matter which we are seeking to address is the LAA guidance which currently says that the start time for a telephone/video conference is the actual time of the call rather than the attendance time on the court order. Another matter is the release of fees tied up in LAA taxation awaiting agreement of minutiae in solicitors’ bills.
9. Please do not hesitate to contact me (email@example.com) or the Family representative Melissa (firstname.lastname@example.org) if there are any individual or particular concerns with which you would like the Circuit’s advice or support, or if you have suggestions for other ways in which Circuit can support you. Thanks to Melissa for her helpful assistance with this message.