On 19/02/20, the Senior President of Tribunals issued an emergency practice direction (Pilot Practice Direction: Contingency Arrangements in the First-Tier Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal) in accordance with s.23 Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. The practice direction is to cover all chambers of the First-tier and Upper Tribunals during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The practice direction confirms that:
“Where it is reasonably practicable and in accordance with the overriding objective to hear the case remotely (that is in any way that is not face-to-face, but which complies with the definition of ‘hearing’ in the relevant Chamber’s procedure rules), it should be heard remotely.”
The arrangement has been put in place for a period of 6 moths, though it will reviewed and can be revoked at any time should the measure become inappropriate or unnecessary.
The practice direction essentially allows:
Where it is deemed necessary for a hearing to take place, the hearing should be heard remotely i.e. video hearings (if reasonably practicable) i.e. that is in any way that is not face-to-face. Up until now, some hearings have been adjourned while others will go ahead as Case Management Hearings (CMR) via telephone or skype.
The Senior President of Tribunals has noted that the tribunals will take into account the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic when considering applications for the extension of time for compliance with directions and the postponement of hearings, insofar as compatible with the efficient administration of justice.