Courts and Tribunals Weekly Operational Update - Coronavirus: week commencing Monday 15 February 2021

HMCTS weekly operational update during coronavirus outbreak

HMCTS operational summary for week commencing Monday 15 February 2021

Next week’s update will be issued on Friday 19 February 2021.

  • Updated: This week we opened a new Nightingale Court in Taunton, which has 2 courtrooms for Crown Court and magistrates’ court work. Next week we will be opening a new Nightingale Court in Manchester which will have 2 courtrooms for Crown Court work. A formal announcement with full details will follow next week.
  • Updated: Our court and tribunal finder service is the authoritative source for the operational status of all our buildings. Please check before travelling to any court or tribunal building.
  • Our work to safely increase capacity in our courts and tribunals continues. Over 290 courtrooms are now available for jury trials, and the Nightingale programme currently provides 40 courtrooms across the estate, with more scheduled to open this month. Meanwhile, 20,000 hearings are being undertaken via the Cloud Video Platform (CVP) each month as we continue to make full use of remote alternatives wherever possible. Following last year’s consultation, the COVID Operating Hours proposal continues to be under review by the Lord Chancellor.
  • We encourage all court and tribunals users to take part in any Community Testing Programme that is available locally. You can check your local authority website to find out more. In locations where new virus variants have been found the government strongly advises you to take a COVID test, whether you are showing symptoms or not.
  • From Monday 15 February 2021, the Evidence Presentation System (EPS) will begin rolling out to Crown & magistrates’ courts, replacing Clickshare, for use in presenting multi-media evidence in court.
  • A pilot for the rapid testing of COVID-19 among court and tribunal users started at Manchester Civil Justice Centre on Friday 29 January 2021.
  • A 12-month extended opening hours pilot is being relaunched in Birmingham, Stoke on Trent and Loughborough Service Centres. Since Monday 1 February 2021 anyone who has a query about divorce and probate can now receive help from dedicated staff between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday and from 8am to 2pm on Saturdays. Queries about social security and child support will be answered from 8am to 6.30pm Monday to Friday and from 8am to 2pm on Saturdays.
  • We held a webinar for legal professionals to provide information on the arrangements in place at courts and tribunals to meet the Government’s COVID-secure requirements and Public Health guidelines. We have published a recording of the webinar and will soon publish written responses to all the questions submitted.
  • We published a blog to outline the steps we are all taking to keep custody suites in court safe for all who use them, as well as the additional measures in place when producing defendants to a court hearing from a prison.
  • 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.
  • Reminder: 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: 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). Guidance has also been published to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Crime

  • We’ve installed plexiglass screens into over 450 courtrooms and jury deliberation rooms.
  • Magistrates’ courts are facilitating the remote attendance of those involved in proceedings where the court has directed, and is able to facilitate, this. The safe operation of courts remains paramount so listing volumes are being adjusted to reduce the number of people coming to court, in line with the Lord Chief Justice’s recent statement. Updated guidance has been issued to those still required to attend in person.
  • 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.
  • 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