NE Circuit Pilot Protocol to apply to all non BPC fast track and multi track cases listed in Newcastle and Sheffield and Teesside from 1 st June 2020 – 31st July 2020 (at least)

A protocol has been developed by members of the North Eastern Circuit dealing with (non Business and Property Court) trials in Newcastle, Sheffield and Teeside.  That can be found here and is reproduced below.

NEC_Civil Pilot Protocol 1 May 2020

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THE PROTOCOL

This protocol is to be followed by all NEC Chambers and Counsel who are able to do so in relation to cases in (initially) Newcastle and Sheffield and Teesside. At present the pilot Chambers include Park Lane Plowden, Park Square Barristers, Trinity Chambers and Dere Street. The pilot is open to all and all other Chambers on the North Eastern Circuit are encouraged to take part in the pilot. The aim is
to bring to the court’s attention hearings that are able to be heard remotely and for the parties to cooperate and undertake preparation so that court time is used as efficiently as possible.

Protocol for County Court Business in Newcastle, Teesside and Sheffield for 1st June 2020 until 31st July 2020.

This protocol is intended to assist in the listing of effective fast track and multitrack trials in all Court centres in which it is adopted. The initial Court centres for the pilot shall be Newcastle upon Tyne, Sheffield and Middlesbrough.
It is emphasised that the parties are intended to work constructively to ensure that wherever possible trials take place. The parties must be realistic about the time that a hearing will take and the capability of all those involved in the hearing to take part in it. However, with proactive case management by the parties, witnesses should, where necessary, be able to attend remote hearings and the Court
should be able to hear remote hearings with paper bundles; e-bundles are not an absolute necessity. Witnesses can in appropriate cases attend by telephone where attendance by computer is not possible. Wherever e-bundles are being constructed, the guide at https://st-philips.com/creatingand-using-electronic-hearing-bundles/ may be of use.

In general paper bundles are preferable for trials and e-bundles for applications, although Judges may indicate their own preference during case  management. Where sending e-bundles those should be sent to the Judge’s email address by 2pm the day before the hearing. The Judges’ email accounts are able to accept larger attachments than the court email accounts.

The Pilot Protocol is as follows:

1. The pilot period shall apply from Monday 1st June 2020 to Friday 31st July 2020 (an 8 week period, “the Pilot period”).

2. In the “Pilot Chambers” (PLP, PSQB, Trinity, Dere St and any others willing to join) the civil clerks of those shall chambers identify:
(a) All listed M/T trials;
(b) All listed F/T trials;
in which that Chambers has a booking for counsel in the Sheffield area, Middlesbrough
area and the Newcastle area (“the Pilot areas”) so as to identify “the Pilot cases”.

3. Civil clerks in all those Chambers taking part in the Pilot shall in relation to all cases listed
in the Pilot period be instructed:
(a) (in so to far as Counsel has not been allocated as yet by name) to identify Counsel to
be allocated to that case;
(b) To contact Counsel so allocated in each of those Pilot cases and inform him/her of the
potential hearing;
(c) To ask Counsel to contact instructing solicitor and enquire as to the current status of
that potential hearing.

4. By 7th May 2020 allocated Counsel shall then make enquiry of the solicitor and unless the case has settled/is not still proceeding, shall explore the practicalities of the hearing proceeding remotely (the standard checklist of questions below must be answered through that enquiry).

5. Wherever possible the steps below shall be taken jointly by the parties.

6. By 15th May 2020 the parties (preferably jointly), either through instructed solicitor(s) or through the clerk(s) of the Pilot Chambers, shall inform the relevant Court in the Pilot areas of the results of the enquiry through an email informing the court of the following:
If the result is that after proper enquiry:
(a) it is concluded by Counsel that such case cannot properly proceed to a remote hearing
the Court shall be informed of the same and reasons shall be provided together with
if appropriate proposed further case management suggestions;
Alternatively to (a)
(b) it is concluded that such case can properly proceed (by consent of all parties) to a remote hearing the Court shall be informed (including in the subject line “REMOTE READY”) giving proposed trial management directions (agreed if possible) and in the
event of disagreement as to trial management directions an application is to be made
to the Court to resolve the issue of what trial management directions should be made
Alternatively to (a) and (b)
(c) it is concluded by at least one party that such case can properly proceed to a remote
hearing but at least one/ the other party disagrees then the Court shall be informed
(including in the subject line “REMOTE HEARING”); and in the event of such
disagreement an application to be made to the Court to resolve the same.

7. In all cases on the pilot in (b) and (c) the parties must provide a list of all attendees, with multiple points of contact for each which are essential in case a party “drops out” (ideally a landline AND email that will be accessible on the day AND a mobile number) and a proposed timetable: cognisant of the fact that experience suggests remote hearings are more tiring and take much longer. Send all the contact numbers in an email to help the court staff create links/set-up calls.

8. The emails to Court under this protocol should include in the subject heading: the case number, the names of the parties, the date of the hearing, the Judge (if already allocated) and the relevant heading – REMOTE READY/REMOTE HEARING.

9. For all application hearings under (b) and (c) above the CMC/application hearing shall be held remotely in the w/c 18 and 25th May 2020. The parties should provide the names and email addresses of the remote hearing participants with the response in relation to the substantive hearing. The parties should also prepare e-bundles for these hearings, which should be limited to the essential documents only. Where sending emails to court email addresses any email attachments to any one email should be no more than 25MB (approx. 50 pages). As stated above, Judge’s email addresses will accept a larger file size. It should not be assumed that the Judge will have the paper file.

10. Those cases where a response is received in accordance with the Protocol above will be given priority in the Pilot areas court lists.

11. For cases outside the protocol – but where the parties are ready willing and able to accommodate a remote hearing – they are invited to nominate one party as the contact and email the court with “”REMOTE READY” in the subject header that they are amenable to and have prepared for a remote hearing.

12. Barristers and solicitors are encouraged to send emails (to the usual addresses) telling the court of any case (whatever stage it is at) which the parties consider to be suitable for trial by remote hearing. Emails to those addresses are being dealt with as promptly as present circumstances allow. While there is no need to put any particular code word in the subject line, if the subject line of such an email starts with the words “REMOTE READY”, then that will assist by making it abundantly clear at first glance what the purpose of the email is.

13. For new cases starting parties are encouraged to consider remote hearing preparationsand to put proposals into the Directions Questionnaires.

14. The email addresses to use for communications with the Courts in the Pilot areas are:

a. Sheffield – enquiries.sheffield.countycourt@justice.gov.uk
b. Newcastle upon Tyne – civil.newcastle.countycourt@justice.gov.uk
c. Middlesbrough – civil.middlesbrough.countycourt@justice.gov.uk

Checklist for Enquiries of Instructing Solicitors

The following should be included in the enquiries made under step 4 above:

1. The capacity of the parties, including all witnesses, to participate in a remote hearing
2. If it is said that the matter cannot proceed by way of remote hearing, the reasons why that position is taken
3. The contact details for each party and their witnesses, to include the multiple points of contact referred to above and the means by which the party/witness is best contacted
4. A realistic time estimate for the hearing
5. The capacity to produce bundles, either paper or e-bundle
6. Which parties will get a full bundle and which witness(es) will get a smaller core bundle (eg pleadings, statements, plans but excluding medical records etc).
7. The virtual platform(s) that have been confirmed to be operable by the parties
8. The details of the opposing party, to include instructed Counsel and that party’s position in relation to each of the above
9. Any outstanding issues/applications in order for the matter to be trial ready
We will update this protocol with contact details and email details for the courts and relevant clerks, and after the first period of cases will update the protocol again with feedback and experience from users and the courts.

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