High Court Business for Trinity Term 2021
Having regard to the Government’s current plan to ease existing Covid-19 restrictions, and
subject to such review as may be necessary due to future public health guidance, what follows is a guide to how the High Court expects to increase the type of work it will deal with between now and 31st July 2021.
Continuation of remote hearings
It is essential, for the short term at least, that the work of the High Court is planned in a manner which will best protect practitioners, litigants, Courts Service staff and other stakeholders against the transmission of the Covid-19 virus in an indoor setting. To this end, the High Court will be managed to ensure that footfall is kept to a minimum within the Four Courts complex. This is best achieved by ensuring that all litigation that can fairly be conducted on remote platforms will be so conducted, including substantive proceedings, motions, call over of lists, case management etc. Accordingly, such work as is currently being heard on remote platforms should continue until further notice.
Permitted footfall within the Four Courts complex should be preserved for the type of work that can only fairly be determined in a physical setting. Hence, priority has been afforded to resumption of work in the Master’s Court on the 10th May 2021, that being a list which it has not been possible to transfer to a remote platform.
Proceedings that should not be heard on a remote platform.
Priority must also be given to cases which the judge in charge of the relevant list considers the issues sufficiently sensitive to warrant an oral hearing, as is the case in many family law proceedings, or where there an injustice might result absent a physical hearing (“necessary witness cases”). And, cases falling into this latter category are to be found in all lists including Chancery, Non-Jury/Judicial Review, Personal Injuries, Commercial Court and SID/Commercial Planning. To date, apart from certain family law cases, only witness cases of significant urgency or particular sensitivity have been heard during Covid-19.
A decision has been made to recommence non-urgent necessary witness actions with effect from the 2nd June 2021. These actions include those in which one or more parties may be unrepresented. This decision has been made with due consideration having been given to current and projected Covid-19 infection rates, the Government’s vaccination programme and guidance concerning the easing of level 5 restrictions in relation to a wide variety of work and leisure activities.
Given that it would be unsafe to resume non-urgent witness actions in all courts at the same time, and in order to fairly distribute the available capacity across all divisions of the High Court, it has been decided that a given number of courts in each of division will be permitted to hear non-urgent witness cases in the Trinity term. The following will be the allocation of such courts to each division:
Family Law 2
Non-Jury/Judicia Review 2
Personal Injury 2
Commercial Court 1.
SID/Commercial Planning/ Bankruptcy. 1 court to be shared by both lists.
All such witness actions will proceed in strict compliance with existing Practice Directions. The attention of practitioners is specifically drawn to HC 91, HC92, HC93, HC103 and HC104. Consultations and/or negotiations in proceedings of any type must take place otherwise than on the Courts Service property and once a case is called on for hearing no further time will be allocated for negotiation. The courts within each division which will be earmarked for these non-urgent witness actions will, where possible, be selected to ensure that they are well separated from each other.
It will be for the judge in charge of each list to decide which cases warrant a physical hearing, the number of cases to be listed for a remote or physical hearing each day and the priority to be afforded to each such case. In deciding whether or not to order a physical hearing, the Court, amongst other factors, may have regard to the footfall that would be generated by so ordering.
Please note that the courts earmarked for witness cases do not have to be used for that purpose if they can be more usefully deployed for remote hearings.
This decision should mean that with effect from the 2nd June 2021 there should be no case in any civil list that cannot be heard due to Covid-19 considerations. And, with the substantive allowance now being made for the hearing of witness cases, there is no reason why the daily throughput of cases in the High Court should not be relatively similar to that which pertained prior to the onset of Covid-19.
Cases which are settled
It is vital that where cases are settled in advance of their scheduled hearing date that the court be notified of that fact with immediate effect. Too often, the court is not advised of such settlements with the result that the cases concerned are left in the Court diary thereby depriving other live cases of a hearing date. This practice is extremely detrimental to litigants and lawyers alike.
Personal Injuries Sittings at Country Venues
The High Court will sit to hear Personal Injuries actions at all scheduled country venues in the Trinity Term, subject to the anticipated reopening of hospitality in early June.
To maximise the number of cases that can be dealt with at country venues, a positive call over of each such list will be held three to four weeks prior to the commencement date. The Court will proceed on the basis that all claims ready for hearing are capable of being justly determined on a remote platform provided that one or both parties agree. Where the parties are not agreed, the Court will hear applications in respect of any case in which it is claimed that a physical hearing is necessary to achieve justice between the parties, the onus being on the party making the application to so establish. The list will then be finalised with a designated number of witness cases and remote cases listed for each day of the sessions.
The Personal Injuries actions at all country venues will be subject to all existing Practice Directions concerning Covid-19. In particular, the call-over each day will take place remotely and the practitioners and parties involved in any case in which a physical hearing has been directed, should not enter the Court’s complex until their particular case is ready to commence. At that point, no further time will be permitted for any purpose.
Central Criminal Court: as pre Covid-19.
Special Criminal Court: as pre Covid-19.
Bail Lists: as pre Covid-19.
Extradition List: as pre Covid- 19.
Family Law List: as pre Covid-19.
Asylum List: as pre Covid-19 (remote).
Wardship List: as pre Covid-19 (remote).
Professional List: as pre Covid -19 (remote).
Personal Insolvency: as pre- Covid -19 (remote).
Probate: as pre- Covid -19 (remote).
Bankruptcy List: Witness cases may resume as of 2nd June 2021.
Chancery List: Witness cases may resume as of 2nd June 2021.
Commercial Court: Witness cases may resume as of 2nd June 2021.
Non-Jury/Judicial Review: Witness cases may resume as of 2nd June 2021.
Personal Injuries Actions: Witness cases to resume as of 2nd June 2021.
SID/Commercial Planning List: Witness cases to resume as of 2nd June 2021.
Masters Court: Resumes as of 10th May 2021.
Motions across all High Court civil divisions: All are to continue on a remote platform until further notice.
Motions involving an unrepresented party.
It is hoped to resolve the current difficulty of hearing motions in actions wherein one of the parties is unrepresented in early course. A notice will be posted on this website as soon as possible.
President of the High Court