18th June 2020

A new era for the civil court procedure

The new era has arrived. Civil court procedure has charged into the 21st century and is now fully embracing technological advances. The pace of change, caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the lock down of society, has been meteoric. The lengthy process of consultation and debate has been circumvented by necessity and we now have a completely new way of working. And it starts on Monday 22 June.

The lack of access to the courts, and accordingly to justice, has been keenly felt by litigants already involved in family proceedings and those who have been unable to agree appropriate care arrangements for their children with their former partner or spouse.

The court that they will be returning to, or perhaps visiting for the first time will be very different, in fact, almost unrecognisable.

Here are the 3 keys changes;

  1. It will be a virtual court first of all with all business being conducted electronically and all hearings taking place virtually by telephone or video or else by written submissions.
  2. Attendance at court is going to be a very rare event, and probably only when evidence requires to be taken. Even then evidence will be by submission of affidavits or by video link.
  3. Paper is no longer king. In fact its reign has been brought to an abrupt and almost complete end. It is only to be used in exceptional circumstances or if directed by the court. All other documents are to be sent electronically with immediate effect.

In addition the Sheriffs have been empowered to actively manage cases whilst  agents are being encouraged to keep pleadings focused and brief.

Everyone will take time to adapt to these changes of that there is no doubt. But the primary emotions are relieve and excitement even if it is tinged with a little bit of nervousness about this new way of working.

Initial thoughts are the clients will benefit from this more efficient way of working and that legal bills will be reduced as the hours of hanging around in court corridors or waiting rooms for their chance to be heard should be a thing of the past.

But spare a thought for the agents rooms, court rooms and corridors at court that were once filled with laughter, raised voices, impassioned arguments and that witnessed act of kindness and facilitated knowledge being shared and passed on.

Craig Samson, Partner
Family Law
Blackadders LLP




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