We expect to see a significant increase in the impact of COVID 19 very soon. It is clear that the measures required to manage the outbreak will have an enormous impact on our ability to administer justice through the Health and Education Chamber’s Additional Support Needs jurisdiction. We will have to make significant changes to the way we work - which is the case across the entire justice system. All non-essential business will have to be postponed.
After considering latest government guidance and the advice of the President of Scottish Tribunals, I have decided that all scheduled hearings will be postponed to end June 2020, unless the hearing is time critical. Where a hearing is time critical parties, members, witnesses and staff will not be brought to a physical hearing. Any such hearings will require to be conducted using a telephony only approach, using a similar system to our case conference calls. I have prepared a guidance note on this, which is available here:
This time period may have to be extended in the future. I will continue to keep you up to date in this regard.
Judicial management of allocated cases will continue, using the case conference call system. If a hearing is necessary, which is not time-critical, the number of days can be agreed but no dates will be fixed until after end June 2020. Please refer to the case conference call guidance note, available here:
which reminds us of the value of witness statements and joint minutes of admissions.
Provision for a case to be decided by the legal member without a hearing
There is provision in our rules
to allow a case to be decided by the legal member (rr. 37 (references) and 83 (claims)) without a hearing. Should parties wish to proceed on this basis they should request a case conference call.
The list of circumstances in which a reference or claim may be decided without a hearing are listed in rule 37(2) (references) and rule 83(2) (claims). Most of these reasons are particular and will only apply to certain situations.
There is a more general reason in the list: in rule 37(2)(d) (references) and rule 83(2)(d) (claims) which is where both parties agree to dispense with a hearing.
Where the legal member decides that no hearing is to take place, the case will be decided on the basis of the key documents (reference/claim form and ant statements of case) as well as any written evidence submitted (rule 37(3) (references) and rule 83(3) (claims)).
Finally, I hope you, your loved ones and your communities stay safe and well. I am confident that Scotland will endure.
Health and Education Chamber