Court reform

HMCTS to pilot COVID-19 operating hours in Crown Courts

As part of its court recovery plan HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has agreed to pilot a COVID hours court.

The pilot is to be rolled out to up to seven courts on the circuit and there will be one COVID-19 operating hours in each court centre. The Crown Courts named where the COVID hours will be tested are Liverpool (which is starting week commencing 17 August), Hull, Stafford and Snaresbrook.

We will update members when further sites are announced. This approach will be tested for at least one month with an ongoing review. 

What this means for members

We have made clear to the MoJ our view that in general extended operating hours are not the right approach to tackling the backlogs in the courts, because of the administrative and financial implications for both lawyers and the wider system. Despite our representations, a pilot is being set up to test a model of extended hours.

We have published some guidance to help members who are faced with the prospect of cases being listed within extended hours sessions.

Read the guidance in full

You can also view a guidance note from Liverpool Crown Court explaining the operating hours for trials at Liverpool Crown Court, including the temporary use of the am–pm court model in one trial courtroom.

The pilot model

In one court room, two lists will operate:

1. A trial in the morning starting 9am to 1pm

  • Trials will stop at 1pm and there will be no possibility to extend into the afternoon
  • Trials continuing from the morning session will go into the morning session on the following day
  • The morning team will consist of a separate judge, separate court staff, separate advocates and jurors

The court will be cleaned over lunchtime.

2. A trial in the afternoon starting at 2pm to 6pm

  • This again will consist of a separate judge, court staff, advocates and jurors
  • Trials continuing from the afternoon session will go into the afternoon session the following day

Available sitting time is eight hours depending on length of break.

Alongside the pilot model, a standard hours court will operate. This will ensure that if for any reason a case is unsuitable for the morning or later session court, it can still be listed in the usual way. 

Read the pilot plan and view the full visual guide of the model 

Types of case to be listed

The suggestion is that custody and bail cases will be listed for the morning session and only bail cases will be listed for the afternoon session, with s.28 cases being listed in either.

Further information about the court and tribunal recovery in response to COVID-19 can be found on the HMCTS website.

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