COVID-19 and Civil Procedure Rule Updates. On 25 March 2020, Civil Procedure Rule Practice Direction 51Y (PD51Y) came into force, to facilitate video and audio hearings for the duration of the pandemic. PD51Y gives the Court authority to direct that a hearing must take place in private where it is necessary for the proper administration of justice. It ceases to have effect in accordance with the Coronavirus Act 2020. The Courts and Tribunals Judiciary (CTJ) has also published a Protocol Regarding Remote Hearings, which sets out guidance for the conduct of remote hearings, including considerations in advance of a hearing and practical advice as to the approach to video or audio hearings.
Judiciary Publishes COVID-19 Contingency Plan. On 27 March 2020, the CTJ published High Court Business: Contingency plan for Maintaining Urgent Court Hearings. The guidance distinguishes ‘urgent business’ from ‘business as usual’. While business as usual will continue to be dealt with during the pandemic to the extent possible, urgent business will be given priority. The guidance defines urgent business broadly as any business that would warrant an out of hours application in the Queen’s Bench Division, the Administrative Court, and the Business and Property Courts of England and Wales, among others.