HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has published an organisational risk assessment and assessment tool which will enable them to regularly review the safety of their buildings.
These tools will help HMCTS “identify and act quickly on any areas of concern”. If there is an instance where they cannot resolve any major issues quickly, they will temporarily close the building until they are satisfied that it is safe to re-open.
We provided feedback on these tools, representing our members’ concerns regarding safety. Susan Acland Hood, CEO of HMCTS, has acknowledged this input in her letter to Simon Davis, president of the Law Society.
The safety of our members using the court and tribunal buildings has been a key priority for us since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.
Simon Davis said: “As the lockdown eases, the question will inevitably arise as to how we can return to business as usual whilst maintaining social distancing measures.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have raised our concerns about court users’ safety – including the need for no contact bag checks – with HMCTS and it is hugely encouraging to see this taken on board in their coronavirus assessment tool.
“This tool should help our members hold courts to account if there are concerns they are not applying the guidelines effectively.
“The priority in the coming weeks must be to balance access to justice with the safety of judges, lawyers, jurors, the parties and court users – without compromising on justice.”
Frequently asked questions
Members have been raising important questions about the issues likely to affect them if they attend court. The most frequent questions relate to cleanliness, social distancing and security, and it is reassuring to see these matters addressed in the assessment tool.
In particular, the use of 'hands off' bag searches reduces the need for physical contact and should minimise the risk of exposure to the coronavirus, allowing members to safely enter court buildings.