Prosecutors are being forced by some judges to justify appearing remotely, a civil service union claims in a letter to the lord chief justice.
The FDA, formerly known as the Association of First Division Civil Servants, said it has received ‘disturbing reports’ from members who are prosecutors of judges allegedly requesting inappropriate details from advocates who are shielding due to Covid-19, and advising advocates that they should be attending court in person.
Writing to Lord Burnett of Maldon yesterday, the union said: ‘CPS staff are civil servants and as such they are covered by Civil Service guidance which states that “all employees should work from home unless it is essential for them to be in the workplace”.’
Also quoted is Covid-19 guidance published by the government in May, which stated that workers should continue to work from home rather than their normal physical workplace to minimise the number of social contacts.
The union said: ‘Taking this into account we do not believe that there is any need for prosecutors to be forced to justify why they wish to appear via live link. Their wish to follow both their employer’s guidance and the official government guidelines should be sufficient to meet the “interests of justice” test.’
The FDA acknowledged that some cases will require physical attendance. ‘Such cases should be the exception rather than the rule, and we believe that the emphasis should be on justifying physical attendance where necessary rather than our members having to justify their remote attendance,’ the union said.
A spokesperson for the Judicial Office said: ‘We can confirm that the FDA have written to the LCJ and the LCJ will respond to that letter.’