Are the courts continuing to operate during Lockdown 3.0?
With another lock-down in force in England, it has been confirmed that the courts will remain open. This is different to the first lockdown in March 2020, in which the majority of courts were closed and most face to face hearings did not take place. Hopefully, this new lock-down measure will ensure that cases are still being heard at a steady rate, and there should not be a backlog for your case to be dealt with.
Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC MP emphasised the importance of maintaining safety during the new measures: “Our courts & tribunals continue to be an essential public service, served by essential workers and meeting Covid-secure standards endorsed by public health officials. With the use of remote hearings wherever appropriate, this vital work can and should continue.”
A large sum of £110m has been spent in recent months to make courts safe and to ensure that trials should go ahead where necessary. As a result of the expenditure, hearings can now still take place both in person, whilst adhering to the rules, as well as remotely. Your case may be heard in court if it is deemed as being “necessary in the interest of justice”.
Precautionary measures, such as social distancing, will still be in place, with Judges and magistrates ensuring that this happens.
Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon commented: “The next few weeks will present difficulties in all jurisdictions. But as before judges, magistrates, staff, the legal profession and others involved in the system will meet them and ensure that the administration of justice continues to function in the public interest.”
To be eligible for CBILS, the British Business Bank has confirmed that businesses should be able to answer YES to the following points:
- Your application must be for business purposes
- You must be a UK-based SME with an annual turnover of up to £45m. This includes sole traders, freelances, body corporates, limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships. For sole traders to be eligible it is expected that sole traders will need to have a business account with its funders and not be operating via a personal account
- Your business must generate more than 50% of its turnover from trading activity
- Your CBILS-backed facility will be used to support primarily trading in the UK
- You wish to borrow up to a maximum of £5m.
Businesses meeting these criteria from all sectors can apply save for Banks, Building Societies, Insurers and Reinsurers (but not insurance brokers), the public sector including state-funded primary and secondary schools, employer, professional, religious or political membership organisation or trade unions which are not eligible.
Your borrowing proposals must be considered viable by the relevant lender under normal circumstances aside from the Covid-19 outbreak, and the lender believes the provision of finance will enable the business to trade out of any short-to-medium term difficulty. Lending decisions are delegated to the accredited lenders and lenders will need further information to confirm eligibility.
The eligibility criteria for CBILS does not require lenders to take into account other forms of Government support that SME’s may already be benefiting from, most notably business rate relief.
We understand that ownership structure is not taken into account when confirming eligibility and that businesses back by a PE funder or a subsidiary of an overseas entity can be eligible if it meets the other criteria.
An update on eligibility – 3 April 2020
Previously, for facilities above £250,000, the lender must establish a lack or absence of security prior to businesses using the Scheme. The requirement for insufficient collateral has been removed allowing those SMEs who are considered to have sufficient collateral to access the Scheme. We would expect that where security is available, a lender will seek to take security over the relevant assets.
No. Before continuing any negotiations, you need to strongly consider whether now is the best time to settle. There is a myriad of uncertainty due to the pandemic, with unemployment rates increasing, volatility in the stock markets and difficulties regarding placing valuations on assets. This could all lead to the financial settlement being unfair to you and cause you financial difficulties in the future.
Any financial settlements reached following marital separation should be embodied in to a Court Order, to prevent future claims from your ex-spouse. As a general principle, although maintenance orders are always variable, financial orders in respect of capital (e.g. house, cash, investments, pensions) are final and it is very difficult to set aside a Court Order. The question will be whether or not the pandemic is judged as a Barder event, which broadly means something viewed as unforeseen. It would be challenging for you to argue that the effects of COVID-19 are unforeseen given the widespread expectation of an economic crisis. The Court previously found against a husband who wanted to revisit an Order that he said was unaffordable following the 2008 financial crisis, with one Judge commenting that a 90% drop in the Husband’s share price was a “natural process of price fluctuation”.
Even if you informally agree a settlement with your ex-spouse, and you do not have this reflected in a Court Order, your ex-spouse may still rely on this agreement within future Court proceedings and argue that you should be held to it.
It is, therefore, very dangerous to be reaching any financial settlements at this time with your ex-spouse without careful consideration and legal advice. Further, even if an agreement is reached, market volatility can mean longer implementation times, especially when a settlement relies on the sale of property.
Initially, the relaxation applied to supermarkets and food suppliers. This was subsequently widened to apply to other businesses, permitting them to collaborate where necessary to respond to the crisis in the interests of consumers.
The Government has introduced legislation to expand the list of those who can register deaths to include Funeral Directors who are dealing with the funeral arrangements and who has been authorised by a relative of the deceased to register the death. Also, the medical cause of death certificate can be emailed to the Registrar’s office and arrangements made to have a telephone appointment to provide the Registrar with information to register the death. The requirement to attend the Registrar in person to sign the Register has been relaxed so that this is not necessary. It will however still be necessary to register the death within 5 days.
If an employee is required under government guidance to wear a face mask during the course of their employment and there is no applicable exemption, any fine issued would be payable by the employee, not the employer.