March 18, 2020 saw the Lord High Chancellor make this statement, ‘Even in difficult times like these, it is important that independent courts are able to dispense justice’. Despite the unprecedented situation in the health care sector, the courts in England and Wales remain fully operational.
There have been some changes in the way legal proceedings are carried out in England and Wales. In particular, restrictions on access to the buildings have been introduced. Working hours have also been cut. Still, by and large, the system remains fully functional.
English courts are doing an excellent job making sure that justice is dispensed in this time of trial. For those planning to file a suit in England and Wales during the pandemic, the courts are providing updated information on changes in their working hours. It is hoped that the courts will be able to quickly resume work at full capacity once the crisis is over. Courts remain an attractive option for resolving international commercial disputes irrespective of whether they fall within British jurisdiction or not.
Where it is possible the courts are conducting hearings by phone or via video conferencing. All hearings in Court of Appeal and Supreme Court are being held remotely, with both courts providing boxes for paper copies. The parties are recommended to be more proactive and keep in touch with the court to ensure effective settlement of a court dispute in England. The courts are regularly updating their guidelines on remote hearings.
It is believed that holding remote hearings at a time of crisis runs contrary to the principle of ‘unobstructed access’ whereby members of public can attend hearings. However, that is only a temporary measure.
If you are planning to resolve a dispute in England and Wales in this time of crisis, you should look into the possibility of resolving commercial disputes through virtual arbitration.
There have not been any massive disruptions in the way lawsuits are filed (it is being done electronically now). The majority of courts are continuing to perform their functions the way they usually do. If the situation calls for an urgent hearing (e.g. applications for freezing order) the Supreme Court has devised a contingency plan whereby only urgent cases will be heard and only if they are filed electronically.
You can hire a lawyer who will analyze the contingency plan whereby commercial disputes are tried in England to make sure that you can quickly react to emergencies caused by COVID-19.
Arbitration in England and Wales
The majority of commercial arbitration stems from an agreement concluded between the parties for the sake of resolving any disputes. If you are considering initiating an arbitration in England, you should keep in mind that procedure there allows for greater procedural flexibility. The main courts administering arbitration in London, including LCIA, ICC and LMAA are still open for business.
Mediation in England and Wales
What makes mediation a successful dispute resolution strategy is the fact that it causes the parties to focus solely on their dispute and not to get distracted by other factors. Under the pandemic, some mediators are prepared to provide mediation services in England by phone or via videoconferencing. Parties considering resolving a financial dispute through mediation in England and Wales need to weigh up the advantages of remote mediation at an early stage and avoid having to be personally involved in mediation at later stages when the chances of getting a favorable decision may be higher.
A court verdict is legally binding under a number of construction agreements and is frequently rendered in other situations. It usually in the settlement of disputes in the construction business in England within five to eight weeks. Since the majority of verdicts are made in writing and without verbal hearing, the current situation is producing only a limited effect.
Pre-Trial Settlement of Commercial Disputes is becoming increasingly popular. Our lawyers can provide alternative dispute resolution services, as well as provide legal support during the legal proceedings in England.