Covid-19 guidance for courts in Northern Ireland - Civil Actions


On 23 September, the Lord Chief Justice’s Office issued Covid-19 Guidance for Civil Actions which applies to all civil actions in the High Court and County Court from 1 October 2020. This Guidance is an attempt by the Office of the Lord Chief Justice to have the civil courts undertake as much business as possible during the pandemic.

The keys points arising from it are:

  • Courts will continue to undertake as much business as possible remotely or in the form of a hybrid hearing where the judge directs. Members of the public and legal representatives should not attend court unless specifically required. Where it is necessary for people to come to court in person such hearings can only take place where it is safe to do so. All Courts users should refer to the NICTS guidance on security, social distancing and cleaning of court buildings before attending any Court.

  • The Courts are focussing on cases which are currently listed for hearing. Reviews will be carried out by a Judge via remote hearings with the aim of assessing readiness, giving any necessary directions, and listing cases for hearing.

  • Where the parties wish to request a hearing in a matter which has not yet been listed they should lodge Form HR1 indicating that the matter is ready to be heard.

  • All Forms lodged with the Court office should be completed collaboratively by legal representatives and lodged by email. Where a party is not represented or is a litigant in person, they will be contacted directly by the relevant court office and asked to complete and return the Precedent Form.

  • The HR1 Form should include all the details needed to inform listing arrangements should the judge determine that a hearing is required. The parties are asked to state whether the case is ready to proceed on the trial date (where applicable) and if so, whether it should proceed remotely, in person in a courtroom or by a combination of remote and in person (hybrid). Where a trial date has not been fixed, representatives are required to identify suitable dates for hearing and dates to be avoided. They should also state what meaningful engagement has taken place and provide the names of witnesses to be called, including experts and confirm whether their evidence is to be given remotely or whether they are required to attend the court in person.

  • Cases will be listed in blocks and at half hour intervals each day. Copies of the court lists will be issued through the Law Society and Bar Council for onward transmission to legal representatives.

  • There are restrictions on the number of persons who can be present in court buildings while ensuring public safety and complying with advice from the Public Health Agency. As a consequence, no waiting facilities will be available prior to the hearing and parties will not be admitted until the action is ready to proceed. Accordingly, legal representatives should ensure that they have identified a waiting area for themselves, their clients and witnesses in close proximity to the court on the day of the hearing.

  • If a matter is unable to proceed on its allocated date, or the action has been settled, the relevant court office must be advised as soon as possible.

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at September 2020. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.

 


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