Removing all Covid restrictions in court buildings could hinder efforts to clear the backlog, the Law Society has said, warning that some measures may need to stay in place to ensure the safety of court users.
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.’
Most Covid guidance and legal restrictions are due to be lifted by the government on Monday. However, it is currently unclear whether HM Courts & Tribunals Service intends to keep any safety measures in place.
Boyce said the removal of restrictions should help increase court capacity, but stressed that this is not the only major constraint on tackling the backlogs. ‘There are also challenges in finding enough part-time judges, and enough litigators and advocates to handle the volume of cases in the system.’
HMCTS confirmed today that it will replacing a busy south-east court, which was forced to close after the landlord of the building decided to redevelop the site. Medway County and Family Court will relocate eventually to the Medway Council buildings in Chatham once necessary enabling works have been carried out.