Proceedings generally

Extension of time limits

Practice Direction 51ZA

This practice direction took effect from 2 April. The summary on the Civil Procedure Rules website states that the main changes are as follows:

  • Allows the parties to agree an extension up to 56 days without formally notifying the court (rather than the current 28 days), so long as that does not put a hearing date at risk;
  • Any extension of more than 56 days needs to be agreed by the court;
  • The court is required to take into account the impact of the pandemic in considering such applications, as well as applications for adjournment and relief from sanction;
  • The PD also clarifies the audio and video hearing PD 51Y (the 116th PD Update) by making clear that a person seeking permission to listen to or view a recording of a hearing may do so by request and is not required to make a formal application under the CPR.
  • The PD ceases to have effect on 30th October 2020.

The position will remain under review.

For the avoidance of doubt, this PD does not change the operation of the provisions of PD51Z (set out under the 117th PD Update on 27 March 2020) which provides for the 90 days stay concerning possession proceedings.


Video and audio hearings

Practice Direction on Video or Audio Hearings in Civil Proceedings during the Coronavirus Pandemic

This is a new Practice Direction intended to be in force during the Coronavirus Pandemic.  The following is the wording of the Practice Direction:

“This Practice Direction supplements Part 51

  1. This practice direction, made under rule 51.2 of the Civil Procedure Rules (“CPR”), makes provision in relation to audio or video hearings. It ceases to have effect on the date on which the Coronavirus Act 2020 ceases to have effect in accordance with section 75 of that Act.
  2. During the period in which this Direction is in force, where the court directs that proceedings are to be conducted wholly as video or audio proceedings and it is not practicable for the hearing to be broadcast in a court building, the court may direct that the hearing must take place in private where it is necessary to do so to secure the proper administration of justice.
  3. Where a media representative is able to access proceedings remotely while they are taking place, they will be public proceedings. In such circumstances it will not be necessary to make an order under paragraph 2 and such an order may not be made.
  4. Any hearing held in private under paragraph 2 must be recorded, where that is practicable, in a manner directed by the court. Where authorised under s.32 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 or s.85A of the Courts Act 2003 (as inserted by the Coronavirus Act 2020), the court may direct the hearing to be video recorded, otherwise the hearing must be audio recorded. On the application of any person, any recording so made is to be accessed in a court building, with the consent of the court.”


Priority Courts during the Pandemic

Priority courts to make sure justice is served; Press release

“A network of priority courts will remain open during the coronavirus pandemic to make sure the justice system continues to operate effectively.”

“The work of courts and tribunals will be consolidated into fewer buildings, maintaining the safety of all in the courts and in line with public health advice.

We have 161 priority court and tribunal buildings open for essential face-to-face hearings. Our court and tribunal buildings are divided as follows:

  • 161 open courts – these buildings are open to the public for essential face-to-face hearings
  • 125 staffed courts – staff and judges will work from these buildings, but they will not be open to the public
  • 80 suspended courts – these courts will be temporarily closed.”

The link above leads to the “tracker list” showing which courts are open and which are not.


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