The Gazette has published confirmation today that HM Courts & Tribunals have confirmed people should come to court as usual unless they or a member of their party has or potentially has the coronavirus.
Publishing updated rolling guidance, HMCTS said that during the coronavirus outbreak ‘the business of our courts and tribunals continues’. However, should a member of a party have the virus, they should contact the court or tribunal where the hearing was due to take place.
It may also be possible if there are concerns about corona that cases can be conducted by video link.
HMCTS coronavirus preparation planning
During the current phase of the coronavirus outbreak, the business of our courts and tribunals continues. Any changes to individual hearings will be communicated directly to those affected in the usual way, usually by email and/or phone.
Coming to court or tribunal during the coronavirus outbreak
All court and tribunal users should read the latest information about prevention, treatment and travel. These include but are not limited to witnesses, those attending for jury service, professional courts users and justice system partners.
Stay at home for 7 days if you have either:
- a high temperature
- a new continuous cough
Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.
You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home.
As long as you, or the people who are coming to court with you, do not have confirmed or possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, you should continue to use courts and tribunals as usual. This includes those attending for jury service. Please see our guidance on what to expect when coming to court and our guidance on entering a court or tribunal building.
However, if you, or the people who are coming to court with you, do have confirmed or possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, you should contact the court or tribunal in which the hearing is due to take place. You can find contact details on Courts and Tribunals Finder.
Government guidance is available for workplaces. Although courts and tribunals are not businesses, the principles should be applied to the work of courts and tribunals. We will follow this Government-wide advice in relation to managing our buildings and making decisions about keeping them open.
Hygiene in courts and tribunal buildings
Our buildings are cleaned every day and we’ll also respond swiftly to complaints about poor hygiene. If you see something of concern, please let the local team know so they can put things right.
We know how important it is for all court users – professional and public – to have confidence that they are using a building that is clean and safe. NHS advice is for people to wash their hands with soap and water, which is available in all courts and tribunals. Given the importance of handwashing at the moment, our cleaners will give extra attention to checking bathrooms and handwashing facilities.
We recently changed our security policy to allow people to also bring hand sanitiser into our buildings – our security officers will ask you to use it to prove it’s not harmful.
How we will update you about the impact of coronavirus on courts and tribunals
If there are wider changes to the operational running of the courts this will be communicated in the first instance on our digital channels:
Video hearings during coronavirus outbreak
Judges can consider audio or video links in a number of circumstances. This includes for example where a defendant does not need to attend in person an application to appeal refusal of bail in the crown court, or in preliminary and enforcement hearings.
HMCTS priorities during coronavirus outbreak
We have strong business continuity plans to ensure we can respond to and continue our work in extraordinary circumstances, including public health outbreaks.
This includes a flexible system – and a flexible workforce – designed to ensure that access to justice can be maintained throughout the most challenging of times.
In managing our response to coronavirus, our priorities are to:
- Maintain access to justice
- Support decisions and directions made by the judiciary
- Play our part in the cross-government and justice system-wide plans to deliver key services, protect the public and maintain confidence in the justice system
- Support court sittings and answer public enquiries
- Minimise disruption
- Work with partners and stakeholders to deliver priorities
- Monitor and subsequently manage any arrears of work that could accumulate in the worst-case scenario