The High Court expects to increase the type of work it will deal with between now and 31 July 2021.
Continuation of remote hearings
The High Court will be managed to ensure that footfall is kept to a minimum within the Four Courts complex. To this end, all litigation that can fairly be conducted on remote platforms will be so conducted, including substantive proceedings, motions, call over of lists, and management etc. Work that is currently being heard on remote platforms should continue until further notice.
Proceedings that should not be heard on a remote platform
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.
Priority will 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 an injustice might result absent a physical hearing (necessary witness actions). Cases falling into this latter category are to be found in all lists. To date, apart from certain family law cases, only witness cases of significant urgency or particular sensitivity have been heard during Covid-19.
The Service has decided to recommence non-urgent necessary witness actions with effect from 2 June 2021. These actions include those in which one or more parties may be unrepresented.
In order to fairly distribute the available capacity across all divisions of the High Court, a given number of courts in each division will be permitted to hear non-urgent witness cases in the Trinity term.
All witness actions will proceed in strict compliance with existing Practice Directions. The attention of practitioners is specifically drawn to HC91, 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 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 to order a physical hearing, the court may have regard to the footfall that would be generated by so ordering, among other factors. 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 2 June 2021, there should be no case in any civil list that cannot be heard due to Covid-19 considerations.
Where cases are settled in advance of their scheduled hearing date, practitioners should notify the court with immediate effect.
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 complex until their particular case is ready to commence. At that point, no further time will be permitted for any purpose.
For more information, see the full notice on the Courts Service website.