Coronavirus (COVID-19): courts and tribunals are still going ahead as usual

Coronavirus (COVID-19): courts and tribunals are still going ahead as usual

Posted by on Mar 17, 2020 in News

Court hearings are still going ahead as usual at present and our clients will be updated by telephone if this situation changes.

As published on the GOV website, please see some guidance on how to proceed for when attending courts for hearings.

This page provides advice and guidance for all court and tribunal users during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and will be updated when new advice is available.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service 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, travel and staying at home. These include but are not limited to witnesses, those attending for jury service, defendants, professional courts users and justice system partners.

Stay at home if you have either:

  • a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • a new, continuous cough – this means you’ve started coughing repeatedly

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.

Read the guidance on households with possible COVID-19 infection and guidance on social distancing and protecting older people and vulnerable adults

As long as you, or the people who are coming to court with you, do not have confirmed or possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection or do not need to self-isolate in line with NHS advice, 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 or need to self-isolate in line with NHS advice, 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.

 

Jury service

Jury service is one of the most important civic duties a citizen can undertake and is an essential part of the criminal justice system. If you are serving on a jury now, your jury service will continue as normal and you are expected to attend court unless you have a reason not to (for example you have symptoms or need to self-isolate). If you’re due to do Jury Service in future, or if you have started your jury service already but have not yet been selected for a trial, we will keep in touch with you and let you know what’s expected. We’re carefully following Government advice and keeping the situation under constant review.

If you are currently serving on a jury, you will be expected to attend as normal, unless:

  • you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), or have been diagnosed with a coronavirus (COVID-19) infection
  • official Government advice says you need to self-isolate
  • you are over 70 years of age, have a weakened immune system, an underlying health condition, or are pregnant
  • there is another reason why you cannot attend.

Please contact the Jury Central Summoning Bureau if you have any concerns about your jury service.

 

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.

Court security officers may ask you to move items inside your own bag or ask if they can do this themselves. You can ask them not to touch your belongings, and move them yourself if you prefer.

Court security officers sometimes use a handheld scanner to search people coming to court, but neither this or the officer will touch you.

The guidance for court security officers is the same as for the general public, which is that best protection – for themselves and others – is to wash hands regularly with soap and water. We want to be responsible in making sure that, given the shortage of hand sanitiser, we do not introduce its use where it is not necessary in a way which might reduce the supply where it is essential.

We will continue to monitor and review the practice of court security officers in line with government advice and industry best practice.

 

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 a 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

 

More information and advice

Read the latest information about the Government’s coronavirus response and plans.

Published 13 March 2020, Last updated 16 March 2020
Corona Virus (Covid-19 ) and the Court of England
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