The commercial court will return to ‘gold standard’ in-person trials as lockdown restrictions are lifted – apart from on Fridays, which will stay remote ‘for the foreseeable future’.

According to minutes from a user group meeting, the ‘mood has changed’ among commercial court users, who are less enthusiastic about virtual hearings than in September 2020. From the middle of May 2021, the court expects that most trials should take place fully or partly in-person. 

‘The "in court trial" remains the gold standard and the court is looking to return to that,’ the minutes state. ‘The message is that the court will require rather more persuasion that trials should take place remotely, but that does not mean that all hearings will be in court.’

Rolls Building

‘Mood has changed’ among commercial court users regarding virtual hearings

Source: Jonathan Goldberg/Alamy

In order to manage footfall in the Rolls Building, start and finish times could be staggered. Mrs Justice Cockerill also indicated that the commercial court will keep Fridays remote ‘for the foreseeable future’, unless there is a particular reason to be live in court. Many vacation sittings will also be remote over the summer.

Some 430 claims have been issued by the commercial court so far this year, which is ‘broadly similar’ to 2020. The court noted a ‘slight uptick’ in insurance cases and a rise in low value claims. ‘The court is starting to look carefully at cases and whether they do properly belong here,’ it said.

The commercial court has created a Covid Business Interruption list in preparation for a potential ‘tsunami of work’ in this area. So far, there have been 'very few' Covid insurance cases, following a judgment from the Supreme Court in January which determined whether small businesses hit by Covid-19 should receive insurance pay-outs.