Almost 85% of criminal barristers are concerned about returning to court, citing a lack of basic safety measures such as hand sanitiser and bathroom soap.
In a letter to HM Courts & Tribunals Service, the Criminal Bar Association said it was ‘deeply concerned’ about the cleanliness of court centres. On magistrates’ courts, the CBA said there was an absence of regular cleaning and a failure to provide basic essentials such as hand sanitiser and cleaning products, contrary to a risk assessment document published by HMCTS earlier this month.
A significant number of pupils, junior tenants and solicitors have continued to attend the magistrates’ court during lockdown. One pupil alleged she was not told about a client’s Covid-19 symptoms because the cell staff thought she would ‘make a fuss’ about the legal consultation. Meanwhile, court workers say they have not received sufficient training and incidents have been reported of cell staff talking in large groups and hugging each other.
Chair of the CBA Caroline Goodwin QC said: ‘The CBA has demanded and been given a seat on the professional working group overseeing the workings of the magistrates’ court. We will push for improvements and safety measures similar to those being considered for the Crown court. The health and wellbeing of all our members will remain our primary consideration moving forward.’
A CBA survey found that 84.6% of criminal barristers are concerned about the risk to them or their household of returning to court at the current time. Over 80% said it is essential that counsel should be able to access court buildings without queuing or being searched, and 77% said all work areas must be deep cleaned between trials.
Meanwhile, 82% said it was essential that counsel should be allowed to bring food, drinks and eating utensils into court building if canteens remain closed.