Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

Coronavirus - Further Update

We thought it would be helpful to provide a general update on where matters stand.

In the Court of Session it is expected that, in the absence of a motion to vary / modify, timetables issued by the court will be adhered to.
Sheriff McGowan issued ASSPIC Guidance on 24th March 2020 which can be found here. Subsequent Guidance was provided by the Sheriff Principal on 26th March 2020 which can be found here. We have been advised by Agents that interlocutors are being issued in ASSPIC cases on a rolling basis and in the following terms: “The court, in respect of the exceptional circumstances in relation to the COVID 19 pandemic, ex proprio motu, discharges all assigned hearings and extant items of the previously issued timetable from the date of this interlocutor up to and including 19 June 2020, thereafter, sists the cause."
The absence of a consistent approach to court business regarding adherence to timetables seems to be causing confusion and uncertainty among practitioners. It remains the case that most personal injury actions (with the exception of those involving clinical /medical negligence) settle without proof and that there is, therefore, no good reason not to be striving, wherever possible, to comply with timetables already issued by the court.  In the event that real issues do arise with compliance, it has to be anticipated that the court would look sympathetically at any application to vary.  
Regulatory Crime

Only essential business is being dealt with by Courts and this excludes Trials, FAIs and section 76 pleas. The Health and Safety Investigation Unit of Crown Office have made it clear to Counsel that they are anxious to continue to have meetings remotely regarding cases which may be capable of resolution in order that they can be disposed of as soon as restrictions are lifted.

Guidance from the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service in relation to High Court matters can be found here. In relation to Sheriff Court matters, there are 10 Sheriff and JP Court Hubs operating across Scotland. Each has issued guidance on what will be dealt with and that guidance can be found here.

At the end of last week, the Vice Dean raised concerns with the Cabinet Secretary regarding cessation of business.  The Cabinet Secretary has expressed a desire to do what he can to allow the justice system, both criminal and civil, to continue to operate during the current restrictions. It seems likely that temporary legislative innovations are under consideration and will be unveiled in early course. We will provide further updates when possible. 

Compass Members remain available (and eager) for work and can be contacted direct by email and telephone as normal. We are able to offer remote video conferencing or conference call facilities as appropriate and when required. Management of case papers remains a challenge and it would be greatly appreciated if you could assist by moving as much communication as possible, including papers and instructions, to electronic format.
If you require any assistance regarding the provision of papers or instructions to our Members or wish to discuss the best means by which legal advice and support can be secured from our members, whether in terms of procedural business or arranging conference call / video meetings in place of face to face consultations / meetings, then please do not hesitate to contact our clerks at the following email addresses and numbers:

Gavin Herd, Practice Manager - - 0131 260 5648
Lesley Hogg, Deputy Advocates’ Clerk - - 0131 260 5661
Erica Marmo, Deputy Advocates’ Clerk - - 0131 260 5696
Lucy McConville, Deputy Advocates’ Clerk - - 0131 260 5657
Leona Crosby, Deputy Advocates’ Clerk - - 0131 260 5610

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