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Diary of a Civil Litigator during Lockdown

By June 18, 2020January 26th, 2021Member News & Updates

David Turner a Partner in Kitsons Dispute Resolution & Litigation team, he deals with disputes relating to commercial contracts, with a particular emphasis on financial services disputes.  He has over 25 years’ experience and has been involved in a number of high profile cases. He has been recognised as a leading individual practitioner by the Legal 500 and as a Chambers and Partners Recommended Lawyer

Because of the Coronavirus lockdown, the High Court have been conducting a number of trials remotely, with most of these trials lasting two to three days.  However the Court ordered that there be a remote trial for an eight day trial where Kitsons act for one of the parties. 

Our meeting rooms in our Exeter office were transformed into a Court room of the High Court.  At a pre-trial testing hearing which took place in March, David talks about the experience as a Civil Litigator during Lockdown.

On Friday 20 March 2020 I was the advocate for a Small Claims trial at the Exeter County Court.  The matter was listed for 2.00pm and finally finished at 5.30pm.  It was the last “in person” civil trial at the Exeter County Court before the lockdown.  

On the following Monday we moved into lockdown.  The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 became law on 26 March 2020 and I received my first instructions on the Regulations – from a Garden Centre which wanted to stay open during lockdown.  The matter for a while anyway was very much in the local press – but we managed to persuade the local Councils that this particular Garden Centre could stay open during the lockdown and subject to the requisite safety requirements would not be in breach of the Regulations.  A very happy client.

During the last three months or so I have had a number of matters and trials listed in the Courts.  The varying attitudes of the Court have been interesting.

I had an eight day trial listed in the High Court which I was sure would be adjourned.  But no.  The trial went ahead on a “virtual basis”.  Our offices in Exeter, by way of Order, became an annex of the High Court and we were authorised to administer the oath to witnesses.  In the end the trial was extended to nine days – and the Judge at the end of the trial thanked the parties for the exemplary way that the trial had been conducted and that he understood it to be the longest High Court trial during the lockdown period. 

Other Courts had a different attitude.  One Court has closed during the lockdown period and hearing no Applications or trials – and so a trial I had listed to be heard at that court was adjourned.  Other Courts prefer Applications to be conducted by telephone (not video).  Some like electronic bundles and some like paper bundles.  All very interesting.

After three months – I have got quite used to things.  Indeed it was strange during the virtual trial to put my suit back on – I had almost forgotten how to tie a tie.

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