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Sir Andrew McFarlane provides national guidance on COVID-19

Date:6 APR 2020
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Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division and Head of Family Justice, released new guidance on COVID-19, which is "intended to be followed with immediate effect by all levels of the Family Court and in the High Court Family Division", which is intended to "keep business going safely".

The guidance says:

"There is a strong public interest in the Family Justice System continuing to function as normally as possible despite the present pandemic. At the same time, in accordance with government guidance, there is a need for all reasonable and sensible precautions to be taken to prevent infection and, in particular, to avoid non-essential personal contact."

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The guidance says that that the the government guidance is primarily aimed at the social setting, rather than the business/work environment. It acknowledges that, depending on the circumstances there may be the need, and no harm involved, in having a number of people present in court for an oral hearing.

The guidance says: "Taking these competing factors together, whilst the default position should be that, for the time being, all Family Court hearings should be undertaken remotely either via email, telephone, video or Skype, etc [‘remote hearing’], where the requirements of fairness and justice require a court-based hearing, and it is safe to conduct one, then a court-based hearing should take place."

You can read the rules here.