Announcement: Covid Working Hours Update – 30.07.20

THE REALITY 30th JULY 2020

We attended the Covid Working hours group yesterday and said when we had information we would share. There are embedded in the document two links to papers that you will find informative as you read through.

TEST COURTS:

The position is that the Court Service wishes to test a Covid Hours Court as per the model set out below.

Presently, Liverpool Crown Court has been chosen, to test a single Covid Court alongside its ordinary hours court. This will commence the week of 17th August 2020.

IMPORTANTLY, this is to be tested for a period of at least one month with an ongoing review. The length of time of the pilot review is dependant, on the impact of additional capacity as more court rooms are brought on stream. Many of you know that other practical measures are also to be rolled out such as Perspex screens.

There also has to be some tolerance built into the review period, to allow for the issue of trials not standing up. This system has to be evaluated to see if it works and if it has achieved anything by operating in the way set out below. It will be reviewed in any event by the working group. If this is to be recommended, the aspiration at Liverpool is that once the court centre has tackled its backlog that the Covid hours model will not be required. It is hoped that at Liverpool some 8 courts will soon come on stream.

LIVERPOOL, will not be the only court test centre. It is envisaged that on each circuit there will be one test court. Those have as yet not been finalised. As soon as we know we will update you.

The Liverpool Model of hours, is not to be confused with the staggered working hours that are to be utilised in some court centres, such as those identified at Sheffield Crown Court

TYPES OF CASE TO BE LISTED IN A COVID HOURS COURT AT LIVERPOOL:

The aim is to make these the simplest cases to be tried with the least number of witnesses, single defendants and the shortest time estimates. It may be that a case which has a S28 recording can go into that court, but it will be examined with care.

The plan is to list cases with vulnerable witnesses in the ordinary hours court.

There will be no custody cases in the pm Covid hours courts, as late returns to custodial centres are likely to impact on prisoners such as meals etc.

There will also be no female or Youth custody cases in the Court’s am session due to the distance that may have to be travelled.

Class 1 work is unlikely to go into a Covid hours court.

Below is a link to a document provided by HHJ MENARY QC, Recorder of Liverpool. It is entitled Notes for Guidance and is useful.

Access the document here.

YOUR CASE:

Some two weeks in advance of the commencement of any court centre running this pilot, the cases chosen will be set out in a list. It has been emphasised that listing will be sensitively handled and that cases will not be fixed in any Covid Hours Court running the pilot where Counsel provides reasons to the List Office or Resident Judge in good time as to the lack of suitability of the trial or matters relating to their own personal circumstances which make it more difficult, financially or otherwise, for them to attend e.g. anyone, whether witness, defendant or advocate, with child care issues. The entire basis for the Covid Hours Court pilot is co-operation. Undue pressure will not be brought to bear on the Bar to attend.

ATTENDANCE OF DEFENDANTS:

For those who are operating in a Covid Hours Court, there is the expectation that the court will be open from 8am and defendants available if in custody from no later than 8:30. If that is not the case, then that obviously exposes a failing and we will expect you as counsel to log this.

FOR THE AVOIDANCE OF DOUBT THERE IS NO WEEKEND WORKING.

THE LIVERPOOL MODEL:

A single court room will be used from which the model will be:

Session 1:
A trial in the morning, commencing at 9am through to 1pm.
That trial will cease at 1 pm. There will be no scope for it to go into the afternoon.
The morning team will be a separate judge, separate court staff, separate barristers and obviously a separate jury

The court will be cleaned over lunchtime

Session 2: 
This will commence at 2pm and run through until 6pm. Again, this will be a separate team of Judge, jury, counsel and staff.

Counsel will not have listed, a trial in the morning and a trial in the afternoon. Liverpool counsel have been told that the running of this project will not and ought not to mean that they return cases and this ethos is expected to be reflected in the other yet to be identified test locations.

Please find below a link to the Covid Model as published today by HMCTS summarising this blended approach

Access the Covid Model here.

It is important to note that this is a provisional test run and the errors that are noted will all be fed in to whether or not this is in fact viable. We will advise you as to how that data is to be captured.

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