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What do we do if we cannot meet the Court directions order / timetable?

An amendment to the Civil Procedure Rules’ Practice Directions has been approved by the Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chancellor on 1 April 2020, and is now Practice Direction 51ZA. This has the effect of allowing the parties to extend by prior written agreement up to a maximum of 56 days (rather than the usual 28 days detailed at CPR 3.8(4)) any rule, practice direction or order provided that any extension does not put at risk any hearing date. This Practice Direction will cease to have effect on 30 October 2020.

Additionally each regions’ Designated Civil Judge (DCJ) has issued a Covid-19 Protocol. There are some minor variations between the regions, but overall the guidance is very similar.

In Northumbria, Durham and Teesside the DCJ guidance for multi-track cases provides that “The parties are at liberty to extend, by consent, any step in the timetable up to a maximum of 90 days (as opposed to the present limit of 28 days)” and the Court does not need to be notified if the Trial date is not effected. Where Trial windows are likely to be impacted due to Covid-19 and the parties are in agreement to extending this, a letter can be sent to the Court with a draft order proposing a new timetable, including a new trial window and agreed availability within the trial window.

The same guidance also confirms that an electronic signature on all documents including witness statements and disclosure statements will suffice.