In Part 2 of a series on Litigation and the Courts. Dispute Resolution Solicitor Chris Miller reviews some of the key procedural changes put in place to assist litigators.
As we begin to emerge from the coronavirus lockdown and start the slow journey back towards “normality”, it is likely that Court proceedings will also begin to resume. The Courts have, as outlined in our last article, already switched to working predominantly remotely. But this is not by any means the only change that will face litigants. In this article, we look at some of the most noticeable civil changes that may have been overlooked, but will play a key role as society recovers from the pandemic.
The first change applies to most civil cases. As many people will know, there are strict time limits that must be observed in meeting Court deadlines. Normally, the parties can agree to extend these deadlines, without the consent of the Court, to 28 days, or longer with the Court’s consent. However, since the early stages of the pandemic the Courts implemented a rule allowing the parties to agree extensions of up to 56 days, provided they all agree and there is no hearing within the proposed period of the extension.
It was anticipated that this will enable parties to respond more effectively to claims when they are either unable to work or are working remotely, when communication internally and with solicitors may be more difficult. As before, if one party does not agree, or an extension of over 56 days is needed, you must ask the Court for permission to extend the time. When considering such an extension, the Courts must consider the impact of COVID-19. A party trying to put pressure on their opponent, who then applies to the Court therefore risks the Court looking unfavourably on them on the question of costs if the reason for the delay can be linked in any way to the current pandemic.
The second key change is the block on possession proceedings. From the end of March to the end of June, there is a stay on all possession proceedings, and the Court of Appeal have made clear that only in the most extreme circumstances will an exception be allowed. Therefore, no possession proceedings can continue, although new cases can still be issued and paused, until 25th June. It is not yet clear whether the Courts and the Government intend to extend the stay. Regardless of what happens to existing proceedings, the extended notice periods for possession notices are expected to remain in place until at least the Autumn.
The two changes listed above are just two of the most noticeable ways in which Court procedure has changed in recent months. However other changes have already been, and continue to be introduced, as the wider consequences of the pandemic and associated lockdowns become clear in the months ahead.
If you have a Court hearing which is affected by coronavirus, or require advice on a potential dispute, our Litigation Team would be pleased to assist. For more information, or to book our 1 hour fixed fee consultation, please call 01189589711 or e-mail [email protected].
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Chris Miller works alongside Justin Sadler in the Litigation Department on a wide range of civil litigation matters including Debt Collection and possession claims, as well as assisting with contentious probate matters.