Resumption of Inspections; and progress during pandemic
The Chamber President took a decision on 17th March 2020 to postpone scheduled hearings and case management discussions (CMDs) from 19th March 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Glasgow Tribunal Centre was closed to administration staff from 25th March 2020 and reopened mid-June 2020. Initially, at lockdown there was only limited SCTS staff able to remotely action any urgent or time critical applications. As time went on, that situation improved with SCTS staff who work within HPC provided with laptops which allowed remote access to the necessary case management systems. As resources allowed, applications which were received electronically were processed with judicial decision-making through the sift stage to the point of notification of acceptance of the application in readiness for fixing a case management discussion (CMD) or hearing.
On 9 July 2020, the HPC resumed hearing cases. Initially this was case management discussions for the first few weeks but evidential hearings followed and were conducted by teleconference with parties and tribunal members and clerks sitting remotely and dialing in. For those cases where it is difficult to fairly hear cases by teleconference, an option of video conference hearings has been initiated. However, it is unlikely for the foreseeable future that video conference hearings will be available for all cases of the Chamber given the pressures which currently exist on the SCTS IT support team and teleconference continues to be used for CMDs and most hearings. Resumption of oral hearings remain under consideration but is challenging because of the safety risks associated with face-to-face proceedings.
The resumption of repairs and rent cases has been delayed to await an agreed safe procedure of property inspections. In the interim, CMDs were fixed from 11 January 2021 to assist resolution of repairs cases. Extensive work has been undertaken to identify a process which allows inspections and re-inspections to proceed safely and inspections and re-inspections are now being scheduled from 27 May 2021. Those parties awaiting property inspections can expect to be contacted with an update, if they have not already been contacted with a date for a scheduled inspection. Rent cases are taking a little longer to resume due to the procedural rule provisions with regard to inspections but planning is in taking place for these to resume shortly. Our ability to continue with inspections and re-inspections relies heavily on the changing landscape of lockdown restrictions detailed by the Scottish Government and is assessed on a weekly basis. Before a property inspection is carried out, various safety checks require to take place and we would ask for the cooperation of parties in relation to these checks.
Right of entry cases have resumed with resolution between parties being actively encouraged by the tribunal members involved in these cases.
We thank you again for your patience and understanding during the pandemic.