Wednesday, March 18th, 2020
A further update as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to develop with far-reaching and unprecedented consequences.
We can confirm that:
- SCTS has advised that no new juries will be empanelled, whether in criminal or civil cases, until further notice (as at 17th March 2020)
- The Keeper’s Office has confirmed that cases in the Court of Session involving witnesses (i.e. proofs, proofs before answer and civil business involving witnesses) will not be proceeding until the end of April 2020, when the position will be reviewed and that an interlocutor will follow confirming the discharge. To add to the confusion, however, SCTS has just advised: “Going forwards and indeed as of now, if there are proofs scheduled between now and 30 April in specific actions that parties wish to proceed, this can be discussed with the Keepers Office and if all parties are content to attend in person, arrangements can be made for the proof to proceed as scheduled.” (as at 18th March 2020)
- ASSPIC has today advised that the court programme is unaltered although the court is looking for information from agents about forthcoming proofs and have been requested to advise: (i) of any cases which settle; and (ii) in any other cases whether they wish to: (a) retain proof diets; or (b) discharge them – in the event of a motion to discharge, the court will seek to facilitate hearings by telephone conference and/or written submissions
- Nothing specific has, as yet, been heard from SCTS about general civil and summary criminal business in the sheriff court
It seems that, as matters stand, all other business is to proceed and, for the avoidance of doubt, this will include: procedural business in the High Court; motions, preliminary hearings and procedural hearings in the Court of Session; debates; appeals; and reclaiming motions. This will be kept under review
Members of Compass Chambers will follow the updating guidance provided by Scottish Courts Service in light of advice received from the relevant government and health authorities. The most up to date position can be found here: https://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/coming-to-court/attending-a-court/coronavirus.
We want to reassure you that the priority of Compass Chambers has been and will continue to be to work with you to achieve the best possible outcome for you/your clients while, at the same time, seeking to do what can be done to protect the health and wellbeing of our Members. We are determined to maintain high service and service standard levels while both our Members and Clerks come to terms with the requirement to work remotely for the foreseeable future.
In these difficult and uncertain times we will continue to keep matters under close review and, where and only when appropriate, provide updates.
It seems to us that, while accepting that proofs/jury trials and other hearings involving witnesses will not now be taking place, the requirement to abide by timetables already issued and to be issued by the court will not be affected. It has to be anticipated that, in all the circumstances, applications to vary timetables will be have to be looked upon favourably.
Please note that, on 17th March 2020, Faculty Services Limited advised Clerks from all nine of the Scottish Stables to work from home and that, as a result, our Clerks will not be attending Parliament House.
Management of case papers will therefore be something of 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/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/Pre-Trial Meetings, then please do not hesitate to contact our clerks at the following email addresses and numbers:
Gavin Herd, Practice Manager - firstname.lastname@example.org - 0131 260 5648
Lesley Hogg, Deputy Advocates’ Clerk - email@example.com - 0131 260 5661
Erica Marmo, Deputy Advocates’ Clerk - firstname.lastname@example.org - 0131 260 5696
Lucy McConville, Deputy Advocates’ Clerk - email@example.com - 0131 260 5657
Leona Crosby, Deputy Advocates’ Clerk - firstname.lastname@example.org - 0131 260 5610