HM Courts & Tribunals Service has revealed that it is considering publishing the risk assessments for its buildings within its court and tribunal finder service.
At present, solicitors must ask the court to see a copy of the risk assessment for the building. They have long demanded that HMCTS make the assessments publicly available on its website.
At an annual public user event, HMCTS was asked how people can find out about specific safety arrangements for individual courts.
A member of HMCTS said every court and tribunal building must carry out a local risk assessment to determine if it is safe for the building to be open, and the assessment will detail the safety measures in place. People should contact the court directly for a copy of the assessment but HMCTS said it was doing some work ‘in the background’ in its court and tribunal finder service ‘to explore whether we are able to, more proactively, put them up there to see’.
Earlier this month Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North, asked if the Ministry of Justice will publish a national risk assessment for court buildings.
Responding this week, justice minister Chris Philp said HMCTS’s organisational risk assessment, which was published in May, is ‘currently in the process of being updated’ and a revised version will be published this month.
Asked about recorded Covid-outbreaks, Philp said that since 18 August, the government has recorded all confirmed positive incidents of Covid-19 affecting HMCTS buildings centrally. Where there are two or more confirmed positive cases within 14 days in a particular building, the incident is referred to the Public Health England/Wales local health protection team.
Since 18 August, the MoJ has made 39 referrals. Of those, 24 involved two to three people, 11 involved four to six people, and four involved seven or more people. Philp said a referral does not necessarily indicate that there has been a transmission within a court building.
He added: ‘Incidence rates amongst court staff have consistently been trending lower than the national average for England and on 2 November this was 137.8 cases per 100,000 compared to the English reported position of 228.1 positive cases per 100,000.’
*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.