Work to get jury trials back up and running has moved up a gear after the judiciary announced that new trials have been listed to start in Reading, Warwick and Winchester next week.
Jury trials have already restarted at Manchester Minshull Street, Bristol, Cardiff and the Old Bailey. In an update posted today, Mr Justice Edis, chair of the Jury Trials Working Group, said all proceeded into a second day with no reported problems. 'Positive' feedback had been received from court staff, jurors, witnesses and legal professionals.
Edis J said: 'I am in no doubt that the good start we have witnessed is in large part down to the meticulous planning and preparation that has been undertaken by all involved, including courts and tribunals staff, criminal justice partners, judiciary and legal professionals who have been working every day to keep the justice system running.
'Local HMCTS staff in particular have worked hard in relevant locations to implement the special arrangements agreed by the working group, and I’d like to thank all the jurors, victims and witnesses who took part and were crucial to these first new trials.'
Members of the working group include the Law Society, Bar Council and Criminal Bar Association. The group met twice this week to assess the experience of the first new jury trial and do further work on establishing ways more trials can be safey commenced. 'There have been particular discussions relating to measures to keep courts clean and to maintain effective air circulation in buildings, and I am pleased to say that the group was reassured that the appropriate arrangements are in place on both these important issues,' Edis J said.
Meanwhile, HM Courts & Tribunals Service has published a Covid-19 risk assessment tool. Law Society president Simon Davis said the tool should help members hold courts to account if there are concerns that guidelines are not being applied effectively.
Davis said: 'Throughout the pandemic, we have raised our concerns about court users’ safety – including the need for no contact bag checks – with HMCTS and it is hugely encouraging to see this taken on board in their coronavirus assessment tool. The priority in the coming weeks must be to balance access to justice with the safety of judges, lawyers, jurors, the parties and court users - without compromising on justice.'
*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.