HMCTS are consolidating the work of the courts and tribunals into fewer buildings. It has been announced that from Monday 30 March 2020 there will be a network of priority courts that will remain open during the coronavirus pandemic to make sure the justice system continues to operate effectively.
Fewer than half of all court and tribunal buildings will remain open for physical hearings, with 157 priority court and tribunal buildings remaining open for essential face-to-face hearings. This represents 42% of the 370 crown, magistrates, county and family courts and tribunals across England and Wales.
To help maintain a core justice system that is focused on the most essential cases there will be open courts, staffed courts and suspended courts.
The Judiciary recommend that you check which courts are open before you travel. For information regarding the category of each court lease follow this link.
Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland has said that it is vital that we keep our courts running. and that:
“An extraordinary amount of hard work has gone into keeping our justice system functioning. Technology is being used creatively to ensure that many cases can continue. Not everything can be dealt with remotely and so we need to maintain functioning courts.
These temporary adjustments to how we use the court estate will help ensure that we can continue to deal with work appropriately in all jurisdictions whilst safeguarding the well-being of all those who work in and visit the courts”.
Staffed courts will support video and telephone hearings and progress cases without hearings and ensure continued access to justice.
The remaining courts and tribunals will close temporarily and these measures will be kept in place for as long as necessary.
Sue Fox is a Senior Associate and the Head of the Costs Management team in the Costs and Litigation Funding Department at Clarion Solicitors. You can contact her at email@example.com and 0113 336 3389, or the Clarion Costs Team on 0113 246 0622.
The Bar Council has today given further guidance to its members that advocates should not attend hearings in person unless they are “genuinely urgent” and cannot be done remotely. However, it is anticipated that such a hearing will be a rare occurrence.
My standing advice is that where a hearing is listed, practitioners should contact the court as soon as possible and ask for guidance. I recently wrote to the County Court at Huddersfield and asked what procedures are currently in place; I received a response today stating that “all hearings will be adjourned: you will be contacted before the hearing”.
The situation continues to develop rapidly and therefore it is likely that the position in relation to hearings will change.
Matthew Rose is a solicitor in the Clarion Costs Department. You can contact him on 0113 222 3248 or by email at Matthew.Rose@clarionsolicitors.com.
The Bar Council has recently announced new guidance for barristers on attendance at Court and on “Key Worker” status.
HMCTS has informed the bar council that “listing officers are working urgently to let people know what is happening but a good ‘rule of thumb’ is that if the trial is underway, the default is to attend unless the court tells you otherwise, but if the trial has not started the default is to stay away unless told to attend”.
HMCTS is advising in the Magistrates Court, that ‘it is best to attend if you are expecting to work today’.
In my view, where a hearing of any kind is currently listed, practitioners should keep in regular contact with the court to confirm the status of the hearing. For more information about standing advice in relation to hearings as well as some hints for working from home and dealing with the practicalities of hearings you can view my Coronavirus Update video here posted Friday 20th March 2020:
Up-to-the-minute guidance is available from the Courts on the HMCTS website.
Key worker status updated
The government has acknowledged that legal practitioners are fundamental to the running of the justice system and The Department for Education has just issued further guidance on which legal practitioners come within the limited category of key workers whose children may continue to attend school or nursery whilst they deliver essential services:
Advocates (including solicitor advocates) required to appear before a court or tribunal (remotely or in person), including prosecutors;
Other legal practitioners required to support the administration of justice including duty solicitors (police station and court) and barristers, solicitors, legal executives, paralegals and others who work on imminent or ongoing court or tribunal hearings;
Solicitors acting in connection with the execution of wills, and
Solicitors and barristers advising people living in institutions or deprived of their liberty.
Practitioners are responsible for deciding for themselves whether they fall within these categories.
Clarion continues to be open for business, with some changes in working practices to ensure that the safety of our clients and employees remains our top priority. Matthew Rose is a solicitor and you can contact him on 0113 222 3248 or by email to Matthew.Rose@clarionsolicitors.com