UPDATING NOTE ON CIVIL TRIALS IN MANCHESTER: FROM THE DESIGNATED CIVIL JUDGE

HHJ Bird has sent out an updating note on civil trials at Manchester. Note, in particular, the requirement for parties who want adjournments and the requirement to give evidence in support of applications.

Bridge, Manchester, Reflection, Architecture, Water

“Updating Note from the DCJ

 

  1. As more courtrooms have become available for hearing civil trials and as we continue to learn from our experience of how parties are dealing with the prospect of open court trials, it has become necessary to revisit the standard form court orders. For Fast Track trials listed to take place on and after 3 August 2020 I have made the attached order. A similar order has been made for Multi Track trials.
  2. In total, 18 courts are now available for hearings at the Civil Justice Centre: 8 of them for civil cases. It is imperative that we make sensible and appropriate use of these courtrooms. If we fail do to so, the backlog of work will continue to grow.
  3. Previous orders have encouraged parties to tell the court if they agree that a case should be adjourned. The clear majority of Fast Track trials have been adjourned at the joint request of parties. Parties should not assume that trials listed on and after 3 August 2020 will be vacated when a consent order is lodged.
  4. The new Fast Track order proceeds on the basis that a Fast Track trial will generally be suitable to be heard in open court as a face-to-face hearing or a hybrid hearing but, by reason of the limited court space available to us, might be heard remotely where it is appropriate to do so. Fixtures will only be vacated where there is a good reason to do so.
  5. If the parties want the trial to be adjourned, they will need to make an application. The application will need to be supported in the usual way by evidence. Each decision will depend on the particular facts and circumstances of the case and will take account of available court space and the Covid-19 pandemic.
  6. If any party, witness or other participant has particular concerns about attending court, those concerns should be set out and explained in the evidence. Those concerns will be considered carefully. The court will apply the overriding objective taking into account the unusual circumstances in which we all find ourselves and bearing in mind the need to allot to each case, an appropriate share of the court’s resources, while taking into account the need to allot resources to other cases.
  7. In seeking an adjournment the parties should bear in mind the general guidance set out at CPR PD 28 para.5.4 (set out below):
 
 
(1) The court will not allow a failure to comply with directions to lead to the postponement of the trial unless the circumstances of the case are exceptional.
 
(2) If it is practicable to do so the court will exercise its powers in a manner that enables the case to come on for trial on the date or within the period previously set.
 
(3) In particular the court will assess what steps each party should take to prepare the case for trial, direct that those steps are taken in the shortest possible time and impose a sanction for non-compliance. Such a sanction may, for example, deprive a party of the right to raise or contest an issue or to rely on evidence to which the direction relates.
 
(4) Where it appears that one or more issues are or can be made ready for trial at the time fixed while others cannot, the court may direct that the trial will proceed on the issues which are or will then be ready, and order that no costs will be allowed for any later trial of the remaining issues or that those costs will be paid by the party in default.
 
(5) Where the court has no option but to postpone the trial it will do so for the shortest possible time and will give directions for the taking of the necessary steps in the meantime as rapidly as possible.
(6) Litigants and lawyers must be in no doubt that the court will regard the postponement of a trial as an order of last resort. The court may exercise its power to require a party as well as his legal representative to attend court at a hearing where such an order is to be sought.
  1. To help the court to determine how the matter should be listed, the Claimant should send to the court the information listed at paragraph 4 of the order, ensuring that the email complies with paragraph 2 of the order and is sent within 7 days of the order being served. If one or more parties wants the matter to be heard remotely they must comply with paragraph 5 of the order.
  2. In the absence of any application to adjourn the trial or for a remote hearing, the court may (if there is a courtroom available) order that the matter should proceed in open court as a face-to-face hearing.
  3. Subject to the changes in the Fast Track order, the guidance set out in note of 1 June 2020 remains good. In particular parties should expect Judges to make positive and robust case management decisions (whether considering applications to adjourn or otherwise) to ensure that stretched resources are used effectively.
Nigel Bird
DCJ Greater Manchester
9 July 2020″

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