A family judge has imposed emergency measures in Berkshire and Oxfordshire, ordering lawyers to stay at home if possible – despite the government claiming courts will continue to ‘operate normally’ today.
In an email seen by the Gazette, the designated family judge for Berkshire said all suitable hearings should be conducted via video link, Skype or telephone. Physical presence in court buildings ‘should be kept to a minimum’; witnesses should give evidence remotely where possible; and, if coming to court is unavoidable, attendance should be limited to advocates if they can readily contact their clients.
These measures come into force immediately and will continue until further notice. They apply to all family hearings in Berkshire and Oxfordshire.
His Honour Judge Moradifar said the Ministry of Justice, HM Courts & Tribunals Service and judiciary are ‘working very hard to safely react to the rapidly changing circumstances’ but ‘in the intervening period I have put in place provisions that are designed to minimise your attendance at court and I hope they will go some way in supporting your wellbeing’.
Last night, the government said that courts in England and Wales will be ‘operating normally’ today. Justice minister Chris Philp said that people who need to self-isolate according to medical advice should do so, but otherwise the system will continue to function in the face of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Philp said: ‘For those not in isolation, justice will continue and jurors should attend court tomorrow as per their summons.’
*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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