Applications and Reviews before the Queen's Bench Masters

19 March 2020

Applications and reviews before the Queen's Bench Masters

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic the Queen’s Bench Masters have until further notice instituted the following arrangements for the disposal of Queen’s Bench interlocutory applications issued before them, so that counsel, solicitors and litigants are not required to attend the Royal Courts of Justice and risk increased exposure to the virus.

As indicated in the Lord Chief Justice’s notice of 17 March 2020 the focus of the court will inevitably be upon urgent matters primarily.

Summons Court

Cases listed for the two Summons Courts usually held on Friday mornings will be dealt with by email or telephone conferencing rather than by oral hearing. Business will be conducted as follows.

The party who has issued a summons should contact the recipient or recipients of the summons and attempt to arrange an agreed position. It may be that the parties can agree that an order for the relief sought can issue, or that the matter can be adjourned to a particular date, or that, since the recipient has complied in a certain way, the summons can be dismissed. If the parties can agree one of those outcomes, then the party who has issued the summons should email the Central Office centraloffice@courtsni.gov.uk with that position and an order will issue in those terms.

In the event that the parties cannot agree a position and there is a need for the matter to be resolved by the court, that will be accomplished on the basis of written submissions rather than by an oral hearing. Written submissions must be detailed and comprehensive rather than outline arguments. In the first instance the parties should seek to agree between themselves the following matters:

  1. The date by which any replying or further affidavits should be filed;
  2. The date for mutual exchange of  written submissions and for any response thereto; and
  3. The date by which written submissions should be filed with the court;

It is the responsibility of the party who has issued the summons to ensure that the Court has a complete electronic trial bundle of all the documentation necessary for a decision, including copies of authorities.  The Central Office cannot accept paper bundles.

Once the court has a complete electronic trial bundle, including submissions, they will be considered by the Master and a decision will issue to the parties.   If the parties believe that an oral hearing is required then they must state the reasons in their written submissions.  Similarly, if the Master considering the written submissions is of the view that an oral hearing is required, he will direct accordingly.

The Masters in the Queen’s Bench Division remind parties that no new business should be issued until further notice unless it is urgent, in which case the reasons for the urgency must be clearly set out for consideration by the Master.

Review Lists

The Masters currently conduct various reviews of Queen’s Bench litigation throughout the week but particularly Thursdays. Henceforth those reviews currently conducted by oral hearing will be dealt with by email or if necessary, telephone conferencing.

In respect of any case which is listed on a particular date for review, the parties should seek to agree directions with a timetable for outstanding matters. It is anticipated that many of the matters can be agreed and these should be communicated to the Central Office and directions will issue in those terms.

Where there is a difference of position between the parties as regards what directions should issue, the parties should file brief written submissions indicating their respective positions. A complete electronic file of the submissions should be sent to the Central Office by one of the parties. Those submissions will then be considered and the court will issue a direction.  In the event that a party fails to engage in agreeing directions, the Master will consider the directions proposed by the other party/parties.

Contested Summonses

All contested hearings currently listed before the Queen’s Bench Masters are henceforth cancelled. Those applications will be dealt with, if urgent, on the basis of written submissions. The party who issued the summons should contact the respondent and arrange for an electronic trial bundle, including written submissions, to be submitted in accordance with what has been indicated above in the section of this Direction dealing with the Summons court.

Master McCorry

Master Bell

19 March 2020