Update - Proceedings before QB Masters

Posted by · June 09, 2020 8:47 PM


The Queen's Bench have issued new guidance in respect of remote and attended hearings with effect from 15 June 2020. The Guidance is in QB Bulletin 8 and can be found on our QB Covid Guidance page, here.

CJC Report into Covid-19

Posted by · June 05, 2020 10:02 AM


The Civil Justice Council report on the impact of Covid-19 on civil court users has been released and can be found here.

Message from the PIBA Chair: 21 May 2020

Posted by · May 20, 2020 9:45 PM


This is my update on what PIBA has been doing in the last two weeks as lockdown has continued.

CJC consultation

The Civil Justice Council commissioned a rapid consultation on the effects of Covid-19 and the lockdown on civil justice generally, with a focus on remote hearings.  Thank you to those of you who responded to my encouragement and submitted your own survey responses to that.  We attended a (remote) meeting with the researchers and then submitted a paper on behalf of PIBA as a whole. A copy can be found here. They are due to report on Friday. We will take stock of that when they do.

PI hearing numbers

Quite separately, we are working with the Bar Council to try to assess the downturn in PI hearings, (i)  so that the true picture can be seen and pressure applied to HMCTS and others to increase the numbers, and (ii) so that the Bar Council can continue to illustrate to government the problems the profession is facing from the downturn in civil work and try to improve government financial assistance.  Several sets of chambers helped us with data from which we can conclude that, overall, hearing numbers are down by about 50% across the whole period.  Even allowing for a modest improvement in the last three weeks, hearings are still down by about 43%.  Our analysis is here.  We will deploy it as far and as forcefully as we can.  Huge thanks are due to Anna Symington and Gareth McAloon for their work on this.

Listing priorities

We have been working with the Bar Council to try to get civil listing priorities for the County Courts adjusted, so that more hearings take place.  Some success can be seen in the revised priorities from 18th May (here) but we will continue to press for further revisions so that, for example, there is a positive presumption that CCMCs etc should take place.  We are told that the senior judiciary are alive to the threat to the livelihood of the junior Bar, and they have asked for continuing feedback on listing priorities, which we will give.

Local guidance and protocols

Most DCJs are grappling with the ongoing lockdown as best they can. Some have set up local working parties for listing and remote working.  PIBA has members on those.  We have been making suggestions based on your feedback to us.  In the last few days we have had revised protocols or guidance from DCJs in Manchester, Birmingham and the West Country.  The Manchester one is comprehensive, and includes useful suggestions on remote advocacy and conducting video trials.  Those and other guidance documents are all on the PIBA website here.  Please familiarise yourself with them.


We have all had to become familiar with Teams, Skype for Business, Zoom, Starleaf and more.  HMCTS have accelerated the roll-out of their own, bespoke video hearing system CVP (Cloud Video Platform).  Mostly used in criminal courts so far, we are trying to find out details of its introduction in our sphere.  Some of you may have used it already.  We will let you know more, and provide training, when we can.


Since I last wrote, HHJ Melissa Clarke, Jayne Adams QC, Simon Fox QC and Mr Justice Edis have all undertaken live-streamed webinars for us.  They were all excellent, and we are very grateful.  They can be watched here.  Next week’s webinars on the Ogden Tables (by Emma Corkill) are over-subscribed and you will have been emailed about the waiting lists already.  On 3rd June we will have David Heaton QC and James Rowley QC on provisional damages.  On 17th June Charles Bagot QC, Huw Davies and James Prestell will talk about remote negotiations and hearings - latest developments and practical tips.  Please join us for those.

Kind regards

Steven Snowden QC
PIBA Chair

Message from the PIBA Chair: 4 May 2020

Posted by · May 04, 2020 12:24 PM


Survey and CJC review of remote hearings

The Civil Justice Council has just announced a review of the changes necessitated by the Covid-19 lockdown, and in particular the use of remote hearings.

The link is here.

It asks for responses from individuals, so can I please encourage you each to respond.  The deadline is Friday 15th May.  We we also be seeking ways to have PIBA’s collective view heard as part of this review.  It is vital that we all have our say about the current and future arrangements.

On Wednesday this week at 4pm we have Her Honour Judge Melissa Clarke giving us “A view from the Bench”. Please could you send any questions you would like Her Honour to answer to [email protected]

And on Thursday at 4pm we have Jayne Adams QC’s “Quantum Update”, deferred from 22nd April when issues beyond our control with the MS Teams platform prevented it taking place.

Links to join each of these webinars will be emailed directly to you.

Kind regards

Steven Snowden QC
Chair of PIBA

Message from the PIBA Chair: 20 April 2020

Posted by · April 20, 2020 5:27 PM

I recognise that these will be difficult times for many of us.  I am writing to bring you up to date with what PIBA is doing.
1. We have been in touch with DCJs for two reasons.
(a) The first is to try to find out whether there is a consistent picture nationally of how the courts are approaching PI work during this period of lockdown.  The short answer is that there is not.  We have had encouraging responses from some DCJs (particularly those on the Northern and North Eastern Circuits) indicating that they are trying to carry on with as much work as possible and to work with the Bar and Solicitors in continuing to list hearings.  Other courts are doing what they can, but many are limited by resources, perhaps do not have such a cohesive core group of court users, or are unable to be as efficiently organised.  Some courts appear able to do very little at present.  We are collating the various local guidance documents, protocols and practice directions which we can obtain on our website here:  You'll also find there Master Fontaine's Guidance. Please continue to give us feedback through the PIBA circuit reps.
(b) The second is to encourage them to keep as many PI hearings listed and effective as can fairly and properly be achieved.  The most recent message from the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls in this regard is on the PIBA Covid Guidance page and can also be found here.  PIBA is carefully watching developments in those courts which are most advanced in continuing to work.  Some are managing to list applications, CCMCs and Stage 3 hearings by telephone, albeit with longer time estimates and fewer hearings listed each day.  As advocates we know that those attempts will bear fruit only if we assist in preparation (including ensuring that there is a helpful and concise pdf bundle for the court) and tailor our advocacy appropriately.  If those attempts are successful, we will encourage other DCJs to adopt that approach.  We don’t see that a blanket adjournment of, for example, all CCMCs should be necessary.  Further, we know that pilot schemes in Manchester and other places hope to have trials of appropriate fast track cases by video link.  Those will require further and different skills from us, and much closer co-operation between parties and with courts to make them successful, but I am sure they can be.  We will keep you informed of their progress and, if they work, will encourage other courts to adopt the same approach.  Some chambers are putting together demonstrations on how to run a video trial - we will share them with you when we can.  Our webinar on paperless working is a useful resource:
2. The Barristers’ Benevolent Association and the Inns of Court have set up an emergency hardship fund and an appeal for donations.  The link to the appeal is here:  PIBA itself has used some of the money saved by being forced to cancel the Annual Conference to make a donation.  I would encourage all PIBA members to consider doing so, if you are able.  The BBA exists to benefit all barristers who need it - if you need its help, the link is here:
3. The next in our excellent series of continuing education webinars will be this Wednesday, 22 April, at 4pm and will be Jayne Adams QC giving a quantum update.  Jayne has kindly agreed to do a webinar of the talk which she would otherwise have delivered at our Annual Conference.  Details of how to join the webinar will be circulated by email and will be on the PIBA website here.
4. We are still planning events for after what we hope will be the end of the lockdown, including our Annual Lecture, Northern Circuit conference and London Winter conference later this year, and our Annual Weekend Conference in Oxford next Spring.  By way of advance warning, the dates for that will be 26-28 March 2021.  Easter is early next year, and that is the weekend before Easter, but is the only one which St Catherine’s can give us.  Please be aware of the dates if booking holidays.
5. The Court of Appeal are due to hear the adjourned Swift v Carpenter appeal (on accommodation costs) by video link in the week commencing 22nd June.
6. Finally, a reminder about the Ministry of Justice advert of vacancies on the CPRC which we alerted you to on 15th April.  It would be good to have PIBA members on that committee.  Applications close at noon on 28th April.
Kind regards,
Steven Snowden QC
Chair of PIBA