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What is the latest update from the Civil Court?

Almost two thirds of hearings conducted in the Civil Court will occur in person over the next few months as the Civil Court sees an influx in cases.

The Courts

In the Business & Property Courts, cases have been dealt with consistently since the start of the pandemic, except for trials that run for longer than 10 days in the Commercial & Admiralty Court. The Queen’s Bench Division and Administrative Court are also running as normal. If your case is listed for one of these courts, you do not need to be concerned that your case may take longer than anticipated, with conclusions still being reach at the normal rate.

Hearings

Since the start of the pandemic, most hearings have been conducted online through various platforms such as Skype for Business and Cloud Video Platform. The courts are of the view that remote hearings tend to take longer than those that are held in person. As a result, if your case is due to be held in person, the case may be heard in less time. HM Courts and Tribunals Service stated that:

Wherever possible we will look to facilitate face-to-face hearings, but our expectation is that remote hearings will continue to play an important role for the foreseeable future, given that social distancing will continue to limit courtroom capacity compared to pre-Covid levels.”

More courtrooms have become available since the start of the pandemic, resulting in more facilities for cases to be heard in person, which will have the aim of helping to rid of the backlog of cases, along with remote hearings being conducted too, which is a welcome step forward.

Approximately 300 additional support staff will be employed for remote hearings before the end of 2020, enabling better service with remote hearings. The Government has decided that some civil judges will have the option to extend operating hours for cases to be held in the evenings and on weekends too, which may be most suitable for small and fast-track claims, resulting in a potentially faster outcome. The efficiency of all the new measures are being monitored and changes are being implemented, such as increasing the capacity of the Small Claims Mediation Service.

Small Claims Mediation Service

With claims of a lower value, a high proportion of cases successfully settle outside of court, therefore, if you have a small claim, the mediation service may be suitable for your case. Mediation involves a trained impartial third party, with the parties to the case discuss the dispute with the assistance of the third party, aiming to reach a settlement. Now with the increased capacity, it may make the mediation service more accessible, meaning that an agreement can be reached more swiftly rather than waiting for the matter proceed to a hearing.

The courts have stated that:

We aim to increase capacity to accommodate 90% of parties who want mediation, rather than the current 40%. We are recruiting additional mediators and restructuring ways of working to achieve this.”

This is a positive shift for those with small and fast-track claims where legal costs ought to be kept to a minimum. Settling by mediation removes the need for trial costs, amongst other costs, and has additional benefits such as the matter being dealt with more amicably.