What follows is the text of a twitter thread by Simon Mullings (@spikemullings), a housing lawyer and duty scheme advisor, arising from events on a duty session for a possession list last Friday 20 March. Reposted with permission. Following on from our previous post on the civil court’s (lack of) response to Coronavirus, it seems no immediate steps have been taken, at least not across all the county courts. There are reports of different areas doing different things – some suspending lists and hearings, others going ahead despite the LCJ’s statement. Simon’s account shows starkly why immediate steps are required. Our best wishes are with Simon (and all the court staff and attendees involved) for their health.
Court duty work – a long thread from the front line.
While there have been some welcome developments on the civil side, there is also much clarity needed from the Court Service and others to protect clients, court staff and lawyers dealing with urgent court business.
Events at court yesterday are illustrative of the problem and decision makers need to be aware how things work on the front line. While I havered over posting this, it might be necessary to set out the reality of duty work. Clumsy twit-work I’m afraid, but I hope of use.
I was on housing court possession duty. My job is to represent anyone facing a hearing to determine possession of their home or applying to stop themselves from being evicted from their home.
The day’s list was not busy. I had the opportunity to speak to the judge beforehand about guidance issued by the Lord Chief Justice as to block lists of possession cases – to be avoided.
It was confirmed that the court had not at that point any further guidance beyond that. The morning was quiet. The afternoon list consisted mainly of applications to suspend warrants of eviction. I had two clients come to see me.
The last client came into the small windowless duty adviser’s room – 3m by 3m? – and sat the other side of the desk.
As my pal and colleague @Andrea_Qw wryly put it, ‘that’s one duty adviser burned through, how many more to go?’
I have a defendant aged 70+ who is in for PTPH on bail for an offence allegedly committed 30 years ago (you can guess what) who was self isolating but has been told he is required to attend on Monday or will be in breach of bail.
(ii) to consider what response from the justice system is proportionate to the crisis; and