Court trials halted in bid to prevent spread of coronavirus

All jury trials in England and Wales are to be put on hold as part of ongoing efforts to halt the spread of coronavirus

Monday, 23rd March 2020, 9:44 am
Updated Monday, 23rd March 2020, 3:24 pm

In a statement today, Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, said no new trials will start and that ongoing trials will be paused while arrangements are put in place so they can continue safely.

Lord Burnett, the most senior judge in England and Wales, said: “As the Prime Minister has been telling the country, the spread of Covid-19 has continued to accelerate.

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Sheffield Crown Court

“I have decided that we need to pause jury trials for a short time to enable appropriate precautions to be put in place.”

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Lord Burnett said arrangements have been made to conduct as many hearings as possible using telephone, video and other technology, and that HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is ‘working round the clock’ on these new measures.

He said: “My unequivocal position is that no jury trials or other physical hearings can take place unless it is safe for them to do so.

“Today no new trials are to start. Jurors summoned for this week are to be released, if possible without entering the building, and told that they will be asked to return for trials where specific arrangements to ensure safety have been put in place.

“All other hearings in the Crown Court that can lawfully take place remotely should do so.”

The judge said jury trials which have already started should continue if possible, with strict social distancing procedures ‘at all times and at all places within the court building’.

He also said ongoing trials must be adjourned, if necessary, to allow these safety measures to be put in place.

Lord Burnett said the same considerations will apply to Magistrates' Courts, which will need to continue to deal with urgent work, and that hearings should take place remotely if the facilities exist.

Regarding the civil and family courts, where some hearings were held over Skype last week, he said physical hearings should only take place if a remote hearing is not possible and if suitable safety arrangements can be made.