19 Mar 2020

Coronavirus: guidelines for courts and tribunals in England and Wales

Coronavirus: guidelines for courts and tribunals in England and Wales

HM Courts and Tribunal Service in England & Wales publishes guidelines for courts and tribunals as a response to the coronavirus outbreak.

UPDATE: 20th March at 10:50

Jury Service

Any new trails that were schedule for 3 day or more will be postponed.

Telephone and video hearings

HMCTS has published a new guide for these types of hearing which can be accessed through the original link.

Statement for the Lord Chancellor

The statement supports HMCTS actions.  The main message I have taken away from it is: the courts are vital in delivering justice and supporting our way of life but that appropriate steps need to be taken to protect the health of their staff and the public.  A link to the statement can be found on the within the publication.

Individual Courts

  • Chelmsford, Basildon, Southend and Ipswich: All hearings up to the end of April 2020 will be vacated and all evictions cancelled for three months
  • Medway, Gloucester and Cheltenham: Cancelling evictions on a case by case basis
  • Thanet: Closed
  • Oxford and Durham: Evictions cancelled

UPDATE: 19th March at 10:00

General impact and response

HMCTS have advised that their business continues and that they will notify that relevant parties if there is any change to individual hearings. They are advising all users to follow the latest NHS guidance on prevention, treatment and travel. If you do not have any symptoms or confirmed coronavirus you can attend court in the usual way. If you are self-isolating, have possible or confirmed coronavirus you should contact the court in which your hearing is listed. Video or telephone hearings may be considered for certain cases. HMCTS will be following the Government's advice on managing their sites and whether to close any buildings.

HMCTS have listed the below as their priorities while dealing with the outbreak:

  • Maintain access to justice
  • Support decisions and directions made by the judiciary; 
  • Play their part in the cross-government and justice system-wide plans to deliver key services, protect the public and maintain confidence in the justice system; 
  • Support court sittings and answer public enquiries; 
  • Minimise disruption;
  • Work with partners and stakeholders to deliver priorities; 
  • Monitor and subsequently manage any arrears of work that could accumulate in the worst-case scenario. 

Security and Hygiene

Particular attention is being given to public bathrooms within court buildings together with regular daily cleaning of all areas.

The security policy has been amended to allow hand sanitiser into the court buildings.  The security team may ask you to remove your own items from your bag so that these can be checked and you can also request to do so. 

At the moment the guidelines indicate limited impact on the daily running of the courts and tribunals.  However, HMCTS have advised that they will update the guidance on this link and on their digital channels - being Twitter and the Courts and Tribunal Finder webpage - as and when a wider policy is required. 

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