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Editorial: Delay and Adjourned Hearings - Aidan Ellis, Temple Garden Chambers

27/02/19. Previous editorials have drawn attention to the prevalence of late adjournments of trials due to judicial availability or court resources. Anecdotally, the ripple effect of these adjournments seems to be leading to substantial delays. Towards the end of January, a fast track trial in one of the London courts was vacated due to over-listing. It has now been re-listed at the end of September – eight months after the original trial. In mid-February at a different London court, a one hour application hearing was adjourned to be re-listed on the first open date after fourteen days. The application has been re-listed in November. The effect of delays of eight / nine months on the parties’ recollection of events would make an interesting academic study.

On other occasions, the difficulty in listing applications has led to important applications being listed on the morning of trial. Where the outcome of an application is capable of affecting the result of a case, it does not assist the efficient resolution of the case for the trial to follow immediately after the application. To take an obvious example, if the Defendant loses an application for permission to withdraw an admission on the morning of trial, the work done by both parties to prepare for a liability trial will be wasted.

In some respects, this remains a localised problem. Many courts remain efficient at listing both trials and applications. Perhaps to some extent, issues surrounding applications could be resolved by even greater use of telephone hearings or by the Court determining straightforward applications on the papers pursuant to CPR 23.8(c). But the core issue is one of resources; substantial improvement is likely to require significantly increased investment in civil justice, including in the recruitment of more Judges.

Aidan Ellis
Temple Garden Chambers

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