Covid-19 Message from the PIBA Chair: 23 March 2020
Dear PIBA Member
Key worker status
The Chair of the Bar has issued an update on whether barristers qualify for key worker status during the COVID19 outbreak - here. This follows discussions with the MOJ and the Department for Education. The emphasis appears to be on the frequency/imminence of participation in Court hearings. Barristers must assess for themselves whether they fall in the category of key worker and, if so, whether they can nevertheless keep their children at home or need to send them to school.
Please read the Chair’s update and the clarification from the MOJ/Department for Education.
The Master of the Rolls, the President, the Chancellor and the Senior Presiding Judge have issued a Protocol for Remote Hearings in Civil Proceedings. That document is on the Judiciary website and can be found here. Paragraphs worth highlighting:
10. In the present circumstances, the court and the parties and their representatives will need to be more proactive in relation to all forthcoming hearings.
12. It will normally be possible for all short, interlocutory, or non-witness, applications to be heard remotely. Some witness cases will also be suitable for remote hearings.
16. Judges, clerks, and/or officials will, in each case, wherever possible, propose to the parties one of three solutions:-
(i) a stated appropriate remote communication method (BT conference call, Skype for Business, court video link, BT MeetMe, Zoom, ordinary telephone call or another method) for the hearing;
(ii) that the case will proceed in court with appropriate precautions to prevent the transmission of Covid-19; or
(iii) that the case will need to be adjourned, because a remote hearing is not possible and the length of the hearing combined with the number of parties or overseas parties, representatives and/or witnesses make it undesirable to go ahead with a hearing in court at the current time.
Please familiarise yourself with the Protocol.
Some of you may have seen that the DCJ for Manchester, HHJ Bird, has issued Guidance which applies to civil hearings in the County Court and the QBD in Greater Manchester. You can download that Guidance here. I understand that the DCJs for Liverpool, HHJ Wood QC, and for Bristol, HHJ Cotter QC, will be issuing something similar shortly. I am writing to all of the DCJs to find out what arrangements are being made locally to implement the recommendations in the Lord Chief Justice’s advice and in the national Protocol to avoid in person hearings whenever possible.
The PIBA training and education team are putting together a Webinars programme for the coming weeks. We will be announcing the details soon.
I will keep you updated as soon as I have any other news.
Darryl Allen QC