Lord Chief Justice Suspends All Jury Trials Due to Coronavirus

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The Lord Chief Justice has suspended all jury trials until measures can be put in place to comply with coronavirus safety advice.

The Lord Burnett of Maldon said the courts had “put in place arrangements to use telephone, video and other technology to continue as many hearings as possible remotely” — but that it was not possible for some hearing, “the most obvious being jury trials”, to be sustained in this manner.

“My unequivocal position is that no jury trials or other physical hearings can take place unless it is safe for them to do so,” he wrote.

“This morning no new trials are to start. Jurors summoned for this week are being contacted to ask them to remain at home, and contact the court they are due to attend. They will only be asked to come in for trials where specific arrangements to ensure safety have been put in place.”

The top judge underlined the point that “Social distancing in accordance with PHE [Public Health England] guidelines must be in place at all times and at all places within the court building” for those hearings that do continue — a prescription that many courts may prove unable to follow.

“The basic hygiene arrangements urged upon us by the Prime Minister must be available,” he added, in an apparent reference to hand-washing facilities, which are lacking in many court buildings.

“Resident Judges, with HMCTS [Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service] staff, will determine whether a trial can safely be continued,” he warned.

Magistrates’ Courts and the Civil and Family Courts were urged to continue there work remotely wherever possible — and lawful — and to enforce social distancing if not.

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