Courts and Tribunals Weekly Operational Update - Coronavirus: week commencing Monday 11 January 2021

HMCTS weekly operational update during coronavirus outbreak

HMCTS operational summary for week commencing Monday 11 January 2021

Next week’s update will be issued on Friday 15 January 2021.

  • Updated: Following the Prime Minister’s address to the nation that England will enter a new national lockdown, the justice system remains open as an essential public service. Courts and tribunals continue to operate within the national restrictions in England, alert levels in Wales and protection levels in Scotland.
  • Updated: All those essential to keeping the justice system running are considered critical workers. This applies to all those who work in courts and tribunals, as well as jurors and public court users, who are permitted to attend their place of work when necessary, to travel, to stay overnight in accommodation. Critical workers can access school places for children.
  • Updated: Public Health experts consider advice from SAGE when making their recommendations on COVID-secure arrangements for workplaces. Our policies on mitigations, as approved by Public Health experts, are sufficient for dealing with the challenges provided by the new variant of the virus. Current available evidence on the new variant shows it is spreading faster than other SARS-CoV-2 strains currently circulating in the UK. Therefore the existing mitigation measures (social distancing, hand hygiene, ventilation & mask usage) must be rigorously adhered to & everyone must unfailingly follow the hands-face-space-guidance. We continue to act on the standards, advice and guidance available for workplaces, as published on gov.uk, and where those change we will update our policies to meet any new guidelines.
  • Updated: We review and update our COVID risk assessments each week and apply any changes needed. You can ask for a copy from your local court. If you have any questions about how the risk assessment meets government guidance or how it’s being followed, you can raise your concerns following our escalation process. Escalation routes for professional users (PDF, 266KB, 3 pages)
  • Reminder: Our buildings are not considered close contact settings and the measures we have put in place, as part of our COVID-19 risk management arrangements, are extensive and satisfy public health guidelines for a COVID-secure environment. The suite of controls we already have in place will continue to be enforced. The way to control this virus is the same, whatever the variant. It will not spread if we avoid close contact with others. Wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance from others, and reduce your social contacts.
  • Reminder: All court and tribunal users are reminded to familiarise themselves with the criteria of a ‘close contact’ and what is meant by ‘contact’ with someone who has tested positive as stated in public health guidance.
  • Reminder: Court and tribunal users must continue to wear a face covering in all public and communal parts of our buildings. This includes robing rooms. This is in line with Government advice on face coverings (England), Face coverings: guidance for public (Wales) and COVID-19 stage 3: staying safe and protecting others (Scotland).
  • Reminder: While public health legislation allows those involved in legal proceedings to come out of self-isolation when necessary, you must consult with the court or tribunal first who will consider and decide on appropriate arrangements.

Crime

  • Updated: On Monday 11 January 2021 we will be opening a Nightingale Court at Hull University, providing one extra courtroom. We are also opening 2 additional courtrooms for criminal work at the Royal Courts of Justice.
  • Updated: We’ve installed plexiglass screens into around 450 courtrooms and jury deliberation rooms. More than 290 courtrooms have been assessed as being capable and available to hold jury trials, in addition to over 120 courtrooms for non-jury trial work across 79 Crown Court sites.
  • Updated: 79 Crown Courts have resumed jury trials, as well as 4 other existing court venues and 6 Nightingale Courts sites who have started to hold jury trials.
  • The Crown Court is hearing all types of applications and cases, including multi-hander trials. Where appropriate, judges continue to deal with a range of work remotely, including sentencing hearings.
  • Magistrates’ courts are now dealing with most business type hearings. Since August 2020, magistrates’ courts have been completing more cases than have been received and the number of sittings are almost at pre-COVID levels. We are working hard to return this to 100%, in a COVID-safe way.
  • The judiciary has published a note of listing in magistrates’ courts during coronavirus outbreak.

Family

  • Family courts continue to prioritise work as agreed with the President of the Family Division. Work levels are slowly returning to pre-COVID levels and we are working hard to return this to 100%, in a COVID-safe way.

Civil

Tribunals

Royal Courts of Justice

Judicial announcements