Extended court hours will be introduced from this month in the first phase of the government’s plans to tackle the backlog. In a coronavirus recovery plan the Ministry of Justice indicated it will also complete the reopening of all courts in July and install screens to combat the risk of spreading infection.
However there is not much detail: hearings will take place in one of 10 'Nightingale' pop-up courts from August, but the sites are yet to be identified. There are also no plans outlined for whether the government will push ahead with reducing the number of jurors in trials or even running trials with just a judge and two magistrates.
The plan says: ‘It is clear that while physical distancing restrictions remain in place, we will not be able to work “as normal”: fewer court and tribunal hearing rooms can be used, and cases cannot be listed as efficiently as usual (because the court estate cannot safely accommodate pre-Covid levels of use), and we cannot safely have all staff working in their normal locations.'
There is also an indication that many of the technological developments brought on by the crisis, including the use of remote hearings for certain cases, could become permanent.
Published on 06/07/2020