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COVID-19: Advice 24.03.20

You will have heard the Prime Minister’s ‘Address to the Nation’. This has changed the landscape dramatically.

You may also have read various differing messages from the circuits with differing advice.  This was as a consequence of uncertainty.

We have been in contact with the Senior Presiding Judge throughout the night and this morning in an attempt to obtain clarity over what the announcement means for you and other court users nationally across England and Wales.

The advice is now clear.

  1. Do not attend court unless you are in a part heard trial where your jury is either in retirement or about to go into retirement. We are informed there are 34 trials at this stage across the country in this position.
  1. No other in person hearings will go ahead.
  1. CBA advice: If you are in a part heard trial, then ascertain if it is possible to safely conclude the case. If you consider that going to court would breach the PHE guidance, then do not attend and contact your Judge directly. If you are attending in a part heard trial and have concerns about safety, raise them at court with your Judge. If you consider that it cannot conclude safely in accordance with PHE and Government advice, then say so and feel confident to withdraw.  We will support you.
  1. Upload as much information onto the DCS as possible to help your judge determine if your case falls into an urgent category where, exceptionally, there may need to be a hearing, Even though this situation will be highly unlikely, please provide the information. Take ownership of your case and be proactive.
  1. Magistrates Court: We continue to await definitive guidance. We take the view that the same considerations apply, including the same advice as to safety. Do not attend Court. Magistrates are being told not to attend.The only priority cases are custody cases. We take the view that this must mean overnight remands but no clarity has been provided. We appreciate that pupils and juniors, primarily, undertake this work.  If any problems arise, please contact us. We will support you.
  1. No other hearings will take place in the County and Family Courts that required you to attend. This has not yet been confirmed with regard to Tribunals.

If you are listed to attend a hearing then we recommend that each Chambers nominates a single clerk to contact a court and that he/she ascertains if the hearing is able to proceed remotely. Please have patience with the Courts.  Their list offices are understaffed and under siege.

Before calling or emailing the court, advocates must upload the current defence or prosecution position with sufficient detail to help the judge make an assessment: “widely shared comments” is an effective step.

The PHE advice and that of the Prime Minister is clear.  We must all stay home.  Social gatherings are limited to groups of two. Court work is simply unworkable.

It is our public duty to stay away.  This is a necessary public health measure.

If you experience any difficulties, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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