COVID-19 and the courts – your questions answered
The coronavirus crisis has already had a major impact on all aspects of business and the courts are no exception. With the courts now only dealing with urgent cases, we have put together a summary of the most frequently asked questions:
Can I still start a court action against someone?
Yes, you can. The Court of Session (Scotland’s highest civil court) will accept new actions which require to be raised by 20 April by email. The All-Scotland Personal Injury Court will also accept new actions by email but only where they need to be raised urgently. The Summons (or Writ in the Sheriff Court) will be returned by email, at which point it can be served on the other side. For new actions in the other Sheriff Courts, it is likely that the court will only deal with it if it considered to be urgent.
Can someone start a court action against me?
Yes. As explained above, new actions can still be commenced in either the Court of Session or the Sheriff Courts. Once the action is commenced, unless considered urgent, it is likely to be put on hold. However, any deadlines fixed by the court should be complied with unless you are advised otherwise.
There’s a hearing fixed in my case, will it still go ahead?
Only in very limited circumstances. The courts are now only dealing with urgent business. Everything which is not urgent will be postponed to a later date.
In the Court of Session, any business other than child abduction petitions and interim interdicts (the Scottish equivalent of an injunction) will only be dealt with where the Court is persuaded that it is urgent.
The Sheriff Courts will only deal with emergency civil applications, which have not been defined but suggests that they will deal with a more restricted case load than the Court of Session. Anyone with urgent business (including caveats, interim interdicts and hearings involving the welfare of children) should contact the Sheriff Courts to arrange for it to be dealt with. All Sheriff Court business has been consolidated into 10 of the larger Sheriff Courts. The remaining Sheriff Courts have been closed.
All proofs (civil trials) and debates which are scheduled to take place in the All Scotland Personal Injury Court between now and 19 June 2020 will be adjourned and scheduled to take place on a later date.
Any hearings which do proceed because they are urgent will do so on the basis of written submissions or by telephone call. Personal appearance will not be required and members of the public should not attend court.
Can my case still progress?
Yes, but there may be restrictions if you require permission from the court to do something and it is not considered to be urgent. Applications to recover information from another party are unlikely to be considered urgent in most circumstances. Reports from expert witnesses are likely to be delayed, particularly where they require to examine someone or visit a site in order to complete their report.
What about complying with court deadlines?
Deadlines imposed by the Court of Session should still be complied with. If documents require to be lodged to comply with deadlines between 24 March and 17 April 2020, they will be lodged by email rather than in person. This may be extended depending on how things progress. The guidance issued by the Sheriff Court suggests that all deadlines in cases which are not urgent will be adjourned. If the deadline has not be adjourned any documents that need to be sent to the court can be sent by email.
All outstanding deadlines in cases in the All-Scotland Personal Injury Court will be adjourned and new dates will be fixed at a later date, along with a new date for any hearings.
What happens if I want to appeal a decision?
You can still appeal a decision, however, the appeal will not be dealt with until a later date. New appeals can be sent to the Sheriff Appeal Court by email. The appeal will be acknowledged and then put on hold unless it is deemed to be urgent. All ongoing appeals in the Sheriff Appeal Court will be adjourned and put on hold.
For appeals to the Inner House of the Court of Session, if the right to appeal will expire before 20 April 2020, the appeal can be sent to the court by email. This is likely to be kept under review as matters process.
The guidance from the courts is likely to change again as things progress. If you would like advice on how the guidance affects your case, please get in touch with us.
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