Will coronavirus affect my court hearing or dispute?

24th March 2020

Knock on effect of Coronavirus

Coronavirus has affected every aspect of our daily lives, hampering the way we live, work, trade, travel and conduct business. These factors have had a knock on effect on our justice system which is having to quickly evolve to enable the legal profession to continue to resolve disputes and conduct court hearings.

Despite suspending all jury trials, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett of Maldon announced on 23 March 2020 that “all hearings in the Crown Court that can lawfully take place remotely should do so”. This is a clear instruction that hearings should still go ahead and disputes will be resolved.

The legal sector

The legal sector is embracing technology, enabling remote working to ensure that cases have minimal disruption and dispute resolution can continue. There are currently no plans to close the courts, with judges hearing cases on the papers or by telephone or video conference.

The courts’ use of technology has already had positive results by offering virtual hearings to minimise disruption to cases and proceedings.

There has also been an increase in cooperation from opposing sides to agree mutually convenient changes in their client’s best interests, for example, by temporarily accepting service by email. Such small changes facilitate dispute resolution in this fast evolving situation with Covid 19.

The effect of these measures is that cases can proceed with relatively little disruption, which is particularly important if you have an ongoing dispute under directions from the court.

In these uncertain times, resolving a dispute is even more important especially as the strain on the financial markets grows and the desire to recover losses quickly increases. Today’s uncertainty also creates another unexpected benefit to those involved in litigation: early guidance issued by the courts suggests parties may be more likely to settle cases, meaning disputes may be resolved faster and with less cost.