CASES PROCEEDING IN BIRMINGHAM HIGH COURT (QBD) AND COUNTY COURT: GUIDANCE FROM THE DCJ
HHJ Worster: the Acting Designated Civil Judge for Birmingham has issued the following guidance in relation to cases proceeding in the QBD at Birmingham High Court and Birmingham County Court.
“This local guidance provides some general information about cases proceeding at Birmingham High Court (Queen’s Bench Division) and Birmingham County Court. It does not apply to proceedings in the Business and Property Courts, the Administrative Court or the Upper Tribunal.
We appreciate that you may not be able to speak to a member of HMCTS staff to find out about your case, and consequently we are publicising this brief summary of the position in other ways.
The COVID 19 pandemic means that for all of us movement is restricted to that which is essential. HM Government has issued advice to the Courts about the safety of Judges, HMCTS staff and ways of working. As a result of these matters, and the illness and self isolation of staff and Judges, a number of steps have had to be taken at Birmingham.
- Trials of Fast Track cases and Small Claims
Trials listed in the period up to and including Friday 29 May 2020 have now been vacated (this date will be kept under review and may be extended). An order will be sent to you which enables you to make written representations about how your case might be heard in the future. Once those representations have been considered, the court will give further directions. If you have come to an agreement in the meantime then please send the court a copy of the draft consent order and we will endeavour to deal with it as quickly as possible.
- Trials of Multi Track cases
These will be being considered individually by a Judge. You will be notified about the decision, but the likelihood is that any trial which requires witness evidence to be taken at a hearing in person will be vacated and re-listed on a date when it is safe for the trial to take place.
This means that these trials will not proceed on the date that has been previously notified to you, and you should not attend the Court building. Orders will be sent to you in the usual way, but the shortage of available staff means that there may be some delay in doing this.
The Court is dealing with urgent applications. You are referred to the national guidance. Please consider whether your application is necessary at this time.
A Judge will review your application and decide how it should be heard (the usual order is for a telephone hearing by BT Meet Me). Please be aware that the Judge may decide that your application is not one which can or should be heard at this time and adjourn it, or list it for hearing at some point in the future. You will receive an order from the Court telling you what that decision is.
- Possession Hearings
Your attention is drawn to the Practice Direction 51Z of the Civil Procedure Rules which came into force on 27 March 2020. This gives effect to HM Government’s decision to stay proceedings for, and to enforce, possession for a period of 90 days.
Court Bailiffs are not undertaking evictions at the present time.
- Audio/Video hearings
If your case is listed for an audio or video hearing, you will be asked to provide the relevant contact details or (if directed by the court) to make the necessary arrangements for the hearing with the appropriate provider,
These hearings are recorded by the Court. Please note that to make or to attempt to make an unauthorised recording or transmission of such a hearing is a criminal offence
- Electronic Bundles for hearings
You may be asked to agree an electronic bundle or a core bundle of documents which can be easily emailed to the Judge for a remote hearing. Your cooperation with other parties in the preparation of bundles is very important. Further guidance in relation to an emailed core bundle is set out below.
Guidance for E mailed Core Bundles – March 2020
- The guiding principle is that only documents which are necessary for the determination of the issues before the Judge at the relevant hearing should be included in an emailed core bundle. The aim is to limit the pages of the core bundle to 50. In no circumstances are there to be more than 100 pages in a core bundle.
- As an example, the following form the basis of a core bundle for a CCMC:
(i) The agreed case summary
(ii) Any pleadings necessary for the purposes of the CCMC
(iii) Any previous orders relevant to the issues which the Judge will be asked to decide
(iv) If costs budgeting is an issue, the budgets and the budget discussion reports
(v) If any applications are being dealt with, copies of the application and the witness statements in support and against
(vi) Any other key documents (it is only exceptionally that correspondence between solicitors will be necessary).
- Skeleton arguments (if any) do not form part of the core bundle and may be sent separately, together with a copy of the draft order in Word (if the parties have a significant disagreement as to the terms of the draft order, each may send a draft).
- If a document might become relevant in the course of a hearing, the party should have an electronic copy of it available so that it can be emailed to the Judge, but that will be an exceptional course. The parties will be able to make oral submissions.
- The bundle should be agreed and paginated – documents from an existing paginated bundle may be used with the existing pagination so long as they are placed in numerical order in the core bundle.
HHJ Worster; Acting Designated Civil Judge for Birmingham
6 April 2020″