Face coverings in court and tribunal buildings in England

Woman in face mask standing in city street

From Monday 27 July, HM Courts and Tribunal Services is asking all court and tribunal users to wear a face covering in the public areas of its buildings in England.

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

Face coverings may be allowed to be removed when people are speaking or presenting evidence, and judges or magistrates may ask for them to be removed.

If you’re speaking without a face covering, the two-metre social distancing rule must be strictly adhered to.

There are some exemptions for not wearing a face covering if the individual has a practical reason not to, including:

  • they have a disability or health issue that makes it difficult
  • wearing one will cause the wearer severe distress
  • if a deaf person needs to read the individual’s lips (though speech-to-text apps should also be considered)
  • for eating, drinking or taking medicine

David Greene, vice president of the Law Society, said: “There is a concern that courts are getting busier. It is difficult in many court buildings to maintain social distancing in public areas. While some buildings are more spacious and may have better ventilation, for most courts this is not the case and the risk of contracting COVID-19 is still very real.

“It must be noted that it will be necessary to maintain social distancing within the court building for some time, so whether masks are worn or not should not be a reason to reduce or abandon social distancing.

“The safety and health of our members and all court users, including staff, continues to be of paramount concern. Most, if not all, of the courts that were closed during the lockdown have now reopened and we would ask members to continue observing social distancing rules.

“We would also encourage members to report any concerning practice they see on the ground through the reporting form or by emailing HMCTS.COVID-19ResponseTeam@justice.gov.uk.

“If members do have concerns regarding their health and safety we would advise them to contact the court prior to attending and request a copy of the court’s risk assessment. This will allow members to ensure the courts apply the guidelines effectively and to raise concerns if that is not happening.”

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