With confirmation that the updated Practice Direction, mandating service on defendant representative legal users, will come into effect on 2 June 2022 – and with various system updates having been completed yesterday, we cover below what the current technical issues are, potential risks to insurer client organisations and what we are doing at Keoghs to ensure that we are as prepared for the impending change as is possible.
The most pressing of technical issues currently being experienced is the fact that updates made to the DCP yesterday, have had the effect of knocking out one of the two platforms the system utilises. As a result we are unable to allocate any cases to file handlers. In short the system remains in full failure (which has been the case for the last two weeks, albeit for different reasons). We have an agreement in place with HMCTS that we will send them daily screenshots of all the cases served against us, and they will drop these out of the DCP and into the original heritage system.
We understand that this current issue is not one that we alone are experiencing, and is being encountered by other defendant law firms that we are in contact with. HMCTS are aware of this issue and are looking into it as a matter of urgency. There is no known date for resolution of this issue and we believe that any cases issued after the date for mandatory service on 2 June will continue to be taken out of the DCP and moved to the heritage site.
This is the area where we consider there is most risk to clients as the date for mandating the defendant process quickly approaches. While HMCTS are moving cases out of the DCP at present, with an increased volume of claims being served in the DCP from 2 June, there is a risk that they will not have capacity to do this as quickly (there is no separate technical support team at HMCTS) as necessary which may result in default judgments being obtained against insureds. This will have credit implications for insureds and while it is possible to make applications to set these aside there will be knock-on impacts on time taken for file handlers to rectify issues and cost implications.
While we are still experiencing some delays signing into the DCP and often require more than one verification code to do so, there has been significant improvement to the time taken to sign-in to the DCP.
The defendant reference/client name/client ref/claimant name is not visible on the case list, however some improvement has been seen here in that additional references are now included in the service email. We hope for additional improvement in the future.
There is still a cap of 100 new cases that can be seen at any time. This means we don’t have sight of exactly how many cases are issued each day, however we are able to see all cases, once we clear others by allocating them to a user (something which we are unable to do at the present time – see above).
Unlike the existing Practice Directions within the heritage system, the DCP requires users to file a Directions Questionnaire at the same time as filing a defence. This is likely to be an issue with more complex and higher value county court claims, where we are unlikely to know what experts we may want and which witnesses we will be calling when filing a Defence. There is no intention for this to be altered according to HMCTS, and is very much a feature of the DCP. The likelihood is that a minimally completed Directions Questionnaire will need to be filed with more complex claims, with a more detailed questionnaire filed at a later date.
The exact wording of the updated Practice Direction has yet to be received. Until we have seen it we cannot be sure that insurers who have their own in-house legal departments with SRA registration numbers won’t be required to register with the DCP, however we are led to believe that this will be the case. We will provide an update on this point when the wording of the updated Practice Direction is released.
A snap-shot of the updated Practise Direction has been released and from this we understand:
What claims are not included/suitable for the DCP:
o A civil proceedings order
o An all proceedings order; or
o A civil restraint order
Small claims and claims for specified damages are a grey area which we originally thought were not included in the DCP but do seem to be – we are awaiting clarification of the same.
For more info please contact Natalie Larnder
Head of Market Affairs
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