The justice system in England and Wales is essential and those essential to its running have been deemed key staff by the Government. Courts have to adapt and cannot function in their usual way at this time. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) are working hard to keep our justice system functioning whilst limiting risk to their key workers and the public attending court.
At present, the court system will focus on priority cases. A network of priority courts will remain open to ensure the justice system continues to operate.
Only essential face to face hearings will continue to take place and 157 courts have remained open in order to do so. A further 124 courts remain staffed, although closed to the public, so that those key workers to the justice system, including judges and court staff, can undertake essential work. 89 court buildings have been closed with some of the cases listed at these courts have been transferred to those remaining open. Crown Courts will hear urgent cases whilst Magistrates Courts will also cover urgent work including over night custody and people brought from prison. Police Powers have increased and there is the possibility that they may do so again so it is essential that the Courts are able to operate in order for the powers to be effective.
HMCTS are working to consolidate the work of courts and tribunals into fewer buildings whilst still keeping the wheels of justice turning.
HMCTS are making use of today’s technology such as video conferencing in order to hold hearings remotely where possible.
Certain civil and family matters will also be deemed as urgent and the courts will operate in order to resolve these matters and will have regard for sensitive cases including children and vulnerable people.
Work is being undertaken daily to expand processes so that there is a broader range of cases that can be effectively heard throughout this time whether this be within a physical court room or remotely. HMCTS are working to ensure each and every hearing will continue to be dealt with appropriately.
Our team will be keeping up to date with the daily updates from HMCTS to understand these changes and know what hearings are taking place and how they will be facilitated. If you do have an upcoming hearing it is important that you are aware of the latest information relating to your case as your hearing may or may not proceed as planned.
Separate guidance has been given for those self isolating with symptoms, are high risk or live with someone that has symptoms of Covid-19. If you are unsure of what this guidance is or if you fall into one of these categories with an upcoming court date then our Crime and Regulatory team will be able to assist.