United Kingdom

02 July 2020

How British government is trying to recover the normality of its courts and tribunals?

The UK government has announced that it will take steps to ensure that COVID-19 protection measures are in place within the judicial facilities of courts and tribunals throughout the country. 

The UK Minister of Justice has assured that they will work to install all the facilities necessary to ensure the good viability of courts and tribunals. Furthermore, the President of the Law Society Simon Davis has said the following:

"Balancing safety with the need to keep the wheels of justice turning is incredibly difficult. We recognise that it is impossible for HMCTS to maintain a full complement of courts open to the public at this time; in some courts it is challenging to ensure that people can maintain social distancing. This was already posing health risks that have been of serious concern to the legal professionals trying to help the public in need".

For the moment, the state of the courts in the United Kingdom is as follows:

- 249 of them remain open and essential face-to-face hearings are being held there

- 56 courts house judicial and administrative staff. These courts are not open to the public. All other parties who are able to participate in the hearings by video or telephone with support from the staffed courts will be able to attend the hearings remotely.

- 36 courts are closed. No activities take place in these courts.

British Ministry of Justice is implementing measures to gradually restore judicial activity in the judicial buildings:

"There are now 287 of our buildings open for essential in-person hearings, representing 84% of the 341 crown, magistrates, county and family courts and tribunals across the country. We’ll continue to open our sites as they are assessed as being safe to do so, and plan to open all remaining sites throughout July, alongside installing physical modifications where necessary to maintain a safe environment in our open buildings", write Susana Acland-Hood, CEO of HM Courts & Tribunals Service, in a post published in the Ministry of Justice's website.

"Our online services, mostly established under our reform programme, have been sustained throughout the recent period and we’ll continue to accelerate and expand their effective use across all jurisdictions to maximise their impact. This will include new hardware to improve the quality of video hearings and over the summer, we’ll be completing the rollout of Cloud Video Platform (CVP) into all Crown and Magistrates’ courts, as well as civil and family jurisdictions. The introduction of the HMCTS video hearings service, part of our reform programme, into tax and property tribunal chambers, will extend our capacity in this area", explain Acland-Hood.

To appreciate the current state of the courts, The Law Society has designed the interactive map: https://the-law-society.carto.com/builder/222ca814-0ded-48cd-ba97-b0fd7159d596/embed?state=%7B%22map%22%3A%7B%22ne%22%3A%5B47.42808726171425%2C-19.687500000000004%5D%2C%22sw%22%3A%5B56.108810038002154%2C8.745117187500002%5D%2C%22center%22%3A%5B51.97811348548813%2C-5.47119140625%5D%2C%22zoom%22%3A6%7D%7D

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