Covid-19 – litigation in the time of a pandemic UPDATE

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Covid-19 – litigation in the time of a pandemic UPDATE

Published 18 March 2020

Following our alert of 17 March 2020, the stance of the Courts has moved at pace, as we have anticipated.

The Lord Justice General in Scotland has ordered that no juries are to be empanelled after 16 March, as a consequence of which many criminal trials will not proceed in the foreseeable future.  Alongside this, the All Scotland Sheriff Personal Injury Court has ordered that hearings should proceed by telephone or by written submissions where the parties agree to this, has directed that wet ink signatures are no longer required on a number of documents which must be filed at Court (assisting solicitors in working from home) and has indicated that the Courts will be sympathetic to applications to sist (stay) and vary Directions including the vacation of trials.

In England and Wales, we have seen one of the High Court Masters indicate that he is now working from home and will only deal with hearings by telephone, the High Court Business and Property Courts indicate that it is exploring how future hearings should proceed and that it is seeking to facilitate home-working for the Court staff,  and the designated family judge for Berkshire indicate that all suitable hearings should proceed by video link, telephone or Skype. 

Whilst the Lord Chief Justice has indicated that it is of vital importance that the administration of justice does not grind to a halt, we have seen regulatory trials and an inquest adjourned as jurors were not available; an indication has been given that no new jury trial in England and Wales which is expected to last for more than three days should be commenced before the end of April.  However, there remain some Courts and Judges who are proceeding with business as usual.  

We continue to await emergency legislation which may spell out how the Courts intend cases to proceed, and will provide a further update on receipt of more information.


David Johnson

David Johnson

London - Walbrook

+44 (0)20 7894 6856

David Williams

David Williams


+44 (0)113 251 4844

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