Plastic screens and face masks will remain in place in courts after the bulk of restrictions are lifted next week, the Gazette understands.
From Monday 19 July, it is understood that face coverings will continue to be worn in staffed and communal areas of court buildings, and screens and barriers will remain in place. However, while judges may decide that some form of distancing is necessary between the public and jurors in long trials, there will be ‘minimal’ social distancing in court buildings.
The Ministry of Justice has yet to publish official guidance for courts. However, it says it will provide further detail this week and guidance will continue to comply with public health guidelines.
Earlier this week, the Law Society warned that removing all Covid restrictions in court buildings could hinder efforts to clear the backlog. Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said it is likely to be important to retain some restrictions in courts, even if the government removes nationwide legal restrictions.
‘A wide spectrum of views about the ongoing Covid risks need to be considered, with some people more vulnerable than others. Jurors, witnesses and professional court users need to be reassured that they will remain safe,’ she said.
‘There are also practical issues – if members of staff are required to self-isolate, or if a jury is lost mid-trial because of a Covid contact – the removal of restrictions could become counterproductive to efforts to beat the backlogs.’