Extended Operating Hours - Urgent Call for Feedback
Dear PIBA Member
Extended Operating Hours - please see the urgent surveys referred to at the end of this message
At the request of the Senior Presiding Judge a Working Group has been formed to consider the possibility of trying to clear the additional backlog of cases waiting to be heard as a result of COVID-19 related adjournments / lack of capacity. There are specific sub-groups for crime, civil and family.
The civil working group is chaired by HHJ Godsmark QC, and the additional members are HHJ Robert Harrison, DJ Ranj Matharu, plus the Deputy Director of HMCTS, and representatives on behalf of the Law Society, the Fee Paid Judiciary, the Law Society, Litigants (Support through Court), a data analyst provided at the request of HHJ Godsmark QC and an Observer. Union representation on behalf of the HMCTS staff is also requested. On behalf of PIBA Sarah Lambert QC is representing the interests of the Bar likely to be affected.
The, as yet outline, proposal is for evening sittings from 4.30pm until 8pm, limited to 2-3 days per week, in order to clear small claims, and for Saturday listings from 10am until 4pm to clear fast track trials. There may be some swapping between those 2 time slots depending upon the time estimates of individual claims. This will be in addition to increased regular hours working, but regular listings will not in themselves be sufficient to address the backlog. The EOH is primarily intended to be in person listings, for cases (particularly small claims) where remote hearings are considered unsuitable.
HMCTS has stated in terms that the EOH will be entirely voluntary as far as the court staff and judiciary are concerned, and will be staffed by court staff volunteering for overtime (apparently this has been mooted and is acceptable to the staff, who are already volunteering) and by use of volunteering fee paid judiciary.
The nature of the work proposed for EOH, being small claims and trials lasting 1 day or less, is anticipated to be such as to affect junior rather than more senior members of the bar, and the small claims element, which has the greatest backlog and will make up the greater bulk, makes it likely that the most junior practitioners are likely to be those most in demand for EOH listings.
The civil WG Chair has asked for preliminary soundings as to whether or not practitioners would be willing and able to assist with EOH of this nature. Informal soundings have already been taken from a number of chambers, and the SBAs affected are also providing feedback.
We are conscious that while many will be simply unable or unwilling to accommodate evening and weekend sittings as proposed, the COVID situation has decimated junior work, and income, and there are also many practitioners who may be desirous of the proposal as a short term means to recoup some of their losses.
In order to allow for the greatest input on behalf of PI Juniors likely to be affected by the listings of rta/PI claims, we would be grateful if Juniors under 10yrs' call in particular could complete the following surveys. They are very short and will take less than 5 mins in total to complete.
General Section : https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/JWBSKDN
Small Claims Section : https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/JRQKBZY
Fast Track Trials Section : https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/JTR52MH
Practicalities section : https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/JMZQ55P
We have very little tine to provide this information. We need responses to the survey by 3.30pm tomorrow, 9 July 2020.