FROM THE BAR COUNCIL 24.3.20
The Prime Minister’s message yesterday evening was clear that everyone must stay at home to inhibit all contact and stall the spread of Covid-19. This affects all court hearings.
The latest guidance we can offer is:
Civil or Family Courts: you should not attend in person unless the hearing is genuinely urgent and it cannot be done remotely. Such a hearing will be a rare occurrence.
Crown Courts: You should not attend the Crown Court in person unless you are in a part heard trial. It will be a judicial decision whether the trial will continue, taking into account representations and the stage reached in the trial. If the jury is in retirement or about to retire, it is highly likely that it will go on, if possible. For all other cases, you should engage with the court through the DCS system to try to move it forward remotely.
Magistrates’ Courts: You should not attend the Magistrates’ Court in person unless you are in an urgent case today (see the list below). Magistrates’ Courts will not be dealing with any other business in person. Magistrates are being told not to attend. We appreciate that many junior barristers and pupils do this work. As for all barristers, the Bar Council is here to support you, if you need help.
At the moment, the following categories of Magistrates Court work are urgent cases:
All custody cases, to include:
– Overnight custody cases from police stations (inc. arrest warrants and breach of bail cases)
– Productions from prisons (but custody trials not to proceed)
– Applications to extend custody time limits
Terrorism and extradition (Westminster MC)
– Arrest warrants issued under the Extradition Act
– In hours and out of hours terrorism applications
– Civil applications relating to public health legislation, particularly under the Coronavirus (Emergency) Act 2020
– Warrants of further detention (police and HMRC)
– Closure order applications
– Urgent applications for DVPOs
– Urgent applications for rights of entry/search warrants
OTHER GUIDANCE ON HEARINGS
This is the Protocol – which is probably the most authoritative source available.
With particular reference to:
10. In the present circumstances, the court and the parties and their representatives will need to be more proactive in relation to all forthcoming hearings.
11. It is good practice for the listing office, judges, clerks and court officials to consider as far ahead as possible how future hearings should best be undertaken.
12. It will normally be possible for all short, interlocutory, or non-witness, applications to be heard remotely. Some witness cases will also be suitable for remote hearings.
13. Available methods for remote hearings include (non-exhaustively) BT conference call, Skype for Business, court video link, BT MeetMe, Zoom and ordinary telephone call. But any communication method available to the participants can be considered if appropriate
16. Judges, clerks, and/or officials will, in each case, wherever possible, propose to the parties one of three solutions:-
(i) a stated appropriate remote communication method (BT conference call, Skype for Business, court video link, BT MeetMe, Zoom, ordinary telephone call or another method) for the hearing;
(ii) that the case will proceed in court with appropriate precautions to prevent the transmission of Covid-19; or
(iii) that the case will need to be adjourned, because a remote hearing is not possible and the length of the hearing combined with the number of parties or overseas parties, representatives and/or witnesses make it undesirable to go ahead with a hearing in court at the current time.