Keeping members safe in court and prepared for potential lockdowns

With ongoing reports that the rate of COVID-19 infections continues to increase across England and Wales, keeping our members safe remains one of our key priorities.

Local lockdowns

HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has confirmed that courts and tribunals will continue to function as normal despite local restrictions in:

There are currently no plans to change scheduled hearings.

Member safety

Our main concern continues to be the safety and health of practitioners and all courts users, including staff.

We’re aware that courts are getting busier. We ask you to continue observing social distancing rules.

Court rooms continue to be covered by government guidance that states that court users may wear face coverings whilst in the court room.

Read more about face coverings in court and tribunal buildings

We advise members with concerns about their health and safety to contact the court prior to attending and request a copy of the court’s risk assessment.

This will allow you to:

  • make sure that the courts apply the guidelines effectively
  • raise concerns if that’s not happening

If you’re contacting your local court by email, we suggest that you address the request for the attention of the senior person on site.

These details should be readily available, but if not, you can email us at hmctscourtreform@lawsociety.org.uk.

We also encourage you to report any concerning practice you see on the ground by:

Quarantine exemption

We continue to have concerns that allowing lawyers to break quarantine to attend hearings will:

  • increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission
  • pose a significant danger to court users, including the most vulnerable

Thanks to all who contributed to this issue, which we put to government on your behalf.

We’ve had confirmation from government that they expect everyone who uses and/or works in the courts and tribunals to observe quarantine unless explicitly required to attend court.

This includes notifying the court of any prior requirement to quarantine ahead of any hearings, so that consideration can be given to remote participation and/or rescheduling.

We urge anybody in this situation to be cautious and to consider fully the potential health implications if they were to break their self-isolation period to attend in person.

Given the nature of the pandemic, including the potential for a second wave, and the safety implications connected with face-to-face hearings we believe that remote hearings, where possible, are usually better than delays.

Read our press release on the quarantine exemption

Resources

Guidance on attending a court hearing in person

Guidance on changes to court and tribunal hearings during the COVID-19 outbreak and how they will impact you

Guidance for legal professionals about how fully video hearings work and how to take part

Blueprint for law firms and solicitors facing local lockdowns

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