As of April 2012, all Civil and Family Courts in the London region (and apparently throughout England and Wales) will be changing the opening times of the court desks. They will be open only between 11 am and 1 pm.
According to HMCTS:
Court users attending the public counter with routine work that does not require a face to face service provision will be directed to a “drop box” or to the secure court postbox. Work that is considered will fall into this category include:
- Making a payment
- Case specific enquiries
- General enquiries
- Lodging documents
- Issuing money claims or other civil applications
- Issuing divorce proceedings
- Issuing public or private law proceedings
- Issuing enforcement proceedings
- Collecting forms / orders
We are assured that
These arrangements will not affect the courts’ ability to deal throughout the working day with any matters which should be dealt with immediately e.g. injunction applications. We would encourage you to continue to contact the court via e-mail or fax to alert us to any urgent matters so that we can then make the appropriate arrangements.
Urgent applications are defined as an application or document which needs to be issued or seen by a member of the judiciary within 24 hours
However, nobody appears to know quite what the arrangements for urgent matters will be. What about Litigants in Person turning up to make an application for stay of eviction where eviction is later that morning, for example? Or someone seeking an urgent injunction to prevent unlawful eviction?
Confronted with a closed desk, what are they supposed to do? I rather suspect there may be quite a few appeals resulting.
Oh and Willesden County Court is dealing with urgent matters on an appointment only basis, so we are told people should phone or email for an appointment time, assuming that there are any available.
Given the increasing number of litigants in person, and the huge amount of aid and management of those matters provided by court staff, this looks like a bad move.
There is a consultation form for Court users in the London region. The letter and form can be downloaded here [doc]. The consultation closes on 2 March 2012, so an urgent response needed.