A couple of notes of things of interest and concern.
The Civil Justice Council is currently conducting a review of the Pre-action protocols. As part of this review we are seeking preliminary views from interested parties on the purpose and operation of PAPs and what, if any, reforms are needed.
We would be grateful if you took the time to complete this questionnaire. Please note there will be an opportunity to make detailed submissions to the CJC including on any interim report issued by the Council. This survey is designed as a preliminary fact-finding exercise, to gauge the views of litigants, lawyers and the judiciary about the utility and fairness of PAPs.
Secondly, I’ve received a message from a reader enclosing a (suitably anonymised) email from a county court. Which county court shall remain nameless, but it is within the South East. The email was confirming a hearing for an application to stay an imminent warrant of eviction, but went on to say”
Please note that, given the additional notice parties are receiving both from the bailiff and from the additional notice to quit, District Judge (redacted) has stated that if an application is received at short notice and the court does not have space to accommodate it then it may not get heard and the eviction proceed. Therefore please advise your colleagues to arrange to have the application submitted as soon s possible in the future. The application can always be refined later once a hearing has been arranged.
Where to begin?! County court bailiffs used to give about 4 weeks notice of date of eviction previously anyway, and the notice period for a notice seeking possession (not Notice to Quit) is irrelevant to the timeliness of a stay application.
But the big point – the really big point – is that an application for a stay of warrant can be lawfully made at any point up to the execution of the warrant. If the application is issued by the court, then the applicant has a right to have that application heard and decided, before the warrant is executed.
We all know the immense pressures on county court administration and judges at the moment, but court administration cannot be a reason to refuse to hear a validly and lawfully made application.
If a hearing cannot be arranged before the time for the execution of the warrant, the correct course of action has to be to stay the warrant pending a hearing.
There are a whole plethora of reasons why a stay application may be made shortly before the warrant, many good reasons, some less so, but I cannot accept that it is for an individual county court to determine that its own administrative issues take precedence over the applicant’s rights.
[Update: The DCJ covering the area concerned has been in contact, and will be talking to the court concerned to find out how this came about, and to make clear that stay applications before warrant is executed should either be heard urgently, or if not possible, the warrant stayed pending hearing. I thoroughly heartened by the very swift response. ]
Finally, notes on Z & Anor, R (on the application of) v Hackney London Borough Council & Anor; Gateway Housing Association v Personal Representatives of Ali & Anor; Royal Borough of Kingston-Upon-Thames v Moss and other cases will be coming soon. It is just that I have been really, really, really busy, and in need of sleep.