Courts will continue to operate throughout the four-week period of lockdown expected to begin later this week. Guidance published on Saturday evening, after prime minister Boris Johnson had announced new restrictions coming into force from Thursday, confirmed that courts are among the public services that will stay open. People required to attend court will be able to leave home for the purpose.
In a further message from the lord chief justice and senior president of tribunals, it was stated that the work of the courts and tribunals will continue to be exempted from lockdown measures.
The senior judges said: ‘It is vital for the well-being of the country that the administration of justice continues to operate. The legal profession, the parties, jurors, witnesses, judges, magistrates and court staff are all key workers, vital to the continued running of the courts and tribunals in this proposed period of renewed significant restrictions. ‘Our experience since March has left us much better prepared. HMCTS will continue to follow and implement public health advice to reduce risk.’
The message said that judges and magistrates must continue to make ‘full use’ of provisions for remote hearings so that cases can be dealt with as soon and as efficiently as possible.
‘We have every confidence that in the coming very difficult period, with the support of all those who contribute to the running of the courts, collectively we will remain equal to the many challenges ahead.’
HM Courts & Tribunals Service will be keen to avoid any substantial delays from the forthcoming lockdown, given that the backlog of cases has already increased significantly in the past six months.
For lawyers who do not need to attend court, the advice is that everyone who can work effectively from home must do so. Where people cannot do so they should continue to travel to work/attend their workplace. This is likely to mean the majority of legal professionals continuing to work from home until December at least.