All in-person hearings across all jurisdictions should be suspended except in ‘very exceptional circumstances’, the Bar Council said today as lawyers continue to attend courts across England and Wales.
In a message to barristers, Amanda Pinto QC said: ‘We are calling for a suspension of all in-person hearings across all jurisdictions, save in very exceptional circumstances where a video link or phone hearing cannot accommodate the interests of justice. (For example, a long jury trial may be at its closing stages and it may not be appropriate to stop it.) Initially we suggest a 30-day suspension of all in-person civil, family and crime hearings, after which we should take stock.’
The Bar Council said all proceedings conducted in person, and particularly jury trials, are inconsistent with the government’s current health advice. However, it expressed concerns about the capacity of video links to meet increased demand if they are used more extensively for evidence.
Pinto said the Bar Council is pressing the government to include the bar in any financial support package and is exploring tax and rent breaks.
The Bar Standards Board has confirmed that if a barrister decides not to come to court because of the risk to their own health or to those close to them or to others at court, they will not be in breach of the handbook and cannot be sanctioned.
*The Law Society is keeping the coronavirus situation under review and monitoring the advice it receives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Public Health England.
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Coronavirus: Bar calls for halt on all hearings