Law Society calls for temporary court closures to stop spread of coronavirus variant
Due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus, The Law Society has called for a ‘pause’ of two weeks for non-custodial cases in the Crown and magistrates’ courts.
In a letter to HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) written last week (15 January 2021), The Law Society explained
that the suspension of work was needed due to the risk to court users posed by the new and more easily transmissible variant of the virus. While welcoming the government’s attempts to make court and tribunal buildings safer during the pandemic, Law Society president David Greene argued that, due to the increase in infections and fatalities, ‘we are now in a position where urgent action within the courts must be taken in order to ensure safety and to assist in the process of stemming the rate of infections and in ensuring that the NHS does not become overwhelmed’.
On 12 January 2021, the head of justice at The Law Society, Richard Miller, told the Justice Committee
that there was ‘real concern that things are taking a turn for the worse right now, and, literally in the last few days, it has been getting noticeably worse’. He stated that ‘there are problems with the new variant that need to be addressed’ and warned if this was not done, there was a serious risk of ‘a major outbreak across the court estate’.
Two days after Miller spoke to the Justice Committee, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) released figures
showing that between 24 November 2020 and 11 January 2021 there were over 400 new COVID-19 infections among court staff. There were also 69 confirmed cases among members of the judiciary in the same period.
Updates on the HMCTS response to the pandemic are published on the MoJ’s website