People attending court will be asked to wear face coverings in public areas of courts and tribunals buildings in England from Monday.
HM Courts & Tribunals Service chief executive Susan Acland-Hood wrote to representative bodies yesterday announcing the measure, based on the latest advice from Public Health England on minimising Covid-19 risk.
The move came just over a week since the government said it would not require masks in court buildings, face covering becoming mandatory from 24 July in enclosed public spaces including supermarkets, banks and post offices.
In the guidance, Acland-Hood said individuals may be asked to temporarily remove their face covering for identification purposes. Courtrooms themselves will be covered by previous guidance which does not require face coverings: when people are speaking or presenting evidence in the courtroom, masks may be removed, and judges and magistrates may ask for them to be removed. Anyone speaking without a face covering must strictly observe two-metre social distancing rules.
Court users are asked to bring their own face covering, but can ask court staff if they do not have one.
Exemptions are made for those with a disability or health issue that makes wearing a mask difficult, those for whom wearing one will cause severe distress, where a deaf person needs to read an individual’s lips, and for eating, drinking or taking medicine.
Acland-Hood added: ‘The safety of all our court and tribunal users remains paramount. We’re continuing to comprehensively assess the risk to staff and all users, ensuring the safety of anyone who comes into our buildings by applying published court and tribunal coronavirus safety controls, and do this in line with the latest criteria.’
*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.