Given the substantial backlogs of cases in the criminal courts – which pre-date the pandemic but have been exacerbated by it – it is vital to ensure as far as safely possible the justice process continues, Law Society president David Greene said today.
'Justice is already being delayed for victims, witnesses and defendants, who have proceedings hanging over them for months, if not years, with trials now being listed for 2022,' Greene said.
But he added that 'the safety of all courts users is paramount', especially given the new coronavirus variant. 'We welcome the steps the government has taken to make the courts as safe as possible but it is essential that these meet the added risk of the new variant and there is effective enforcement to ensure that individual courts are applying the measures effectively. Risk assessments must be up-to-date and readily available to all those expected to attend court and safety measures including social distancing and the wearing of face coverings should be strictly enforced.’
He said the Society strongly endorses the lord chief justice’s position that no participant in legal proceedings should be required by a judge or magistrate to attend court unless it is necessary. Greene also repeated his call for a solution to the problems arising from the police withdrawal from facilitating virtual remand hearings and for more Nightingale courts to be opened.
'All those who play their part in keeping the wheels of justice turning – including our members, many of whom are in an ageing demographic – must be provided with as safe a working environment as is possible,' he said.