The Courts – Latest Round Up From The Law Society
On 27 March the MoJ and HMCTS announced that, for public safety reasons, the work of the courts and tribunals will be consolidated into fewer buildings.
As of 15 April there were 160 priority court and tribunal buildings open for essential face-to-face hearings. This represents 43% of the 371 crown, magistrates and family courts across England and Wales.
In addition, a further 116 court and tribunal buildings will remain closed to the public but open to HMCTS staff, the judiciary and those from other agencies. These ‘staffed courts’ will support video and phone hearings, progress cases without hearings and ensure continued access to justice.
Which cases are going ahead
HMCTS is publishing daily updates on which cases are going ahead.
Safety at police stations, prisons and courts
We’re pushing for policies and procedures to ensure that:
- risks to our members are identified and they’re informed when a client, or other person with whom they may come into contact, may be infected
- members and clients can maintain hygiene (for example access to soap and water and sanitiser)
- alternative ways of advising and taking instructions (for example by phone) are provided
- rules are adjusted so that members are not penalised for complying with safety advice, social distancing requirements, etc.
Contact With Clients
In general, we recommend following government advice.
If the client is in a risk category, it’s preferable to deal with the matter remotely – for example, by Skype.
We have produced guidance on obtaining electronic signatures.
The LAA has adopted contingency measures for obtaining client signatures remotely or waiving the requirement in some circumstances.
If a visit is necessary, it should be done by staff who are not:
- a risk to the client
- at high risk themselves
Both the client and the employee will need to agree to the meeting despite any risk.
If you cannot assist, an urgent referral to another solicitor may be appropriate.