The impact of the public health emergency on the operation of the courts has been under constant review. In all jurisdictions steps are being taken to enable as many hearings as possible to be conducted with some or all of the participants attending by telephone, video-link or online. Many court hearings will be able to continue as normal with appropriate precautions being taken. We must make every effort to maintain a functioning court system in support of the administration of justice and rule of law.
Trials in the Crown Court present particular problems in a fast-developing situation because they require the presence in court of many different participants including the judge, the jury, a defendant, lawyers and witnesses as well as staff. Given the risks of a trial not being able to complete, I have decided that no new trial should start in the Crown Court unless it is expected to last for three days or less. All cases estimated to last longer than three days listed to start before the end of April 2020 will be adjourned. These cases will be kept under review and the position regarding short trials will be revisited as circumstances develop and in any event next week. As events unfold decisions will be taken in respect of all cases awaiting trial in the Crown Court.
Trials currently underway will generally proceed in the hope that they can be completed.
All those attending court should follow Public Heath England guidance suitably adjusted to reflect the distinct features of a court as a working environment for all concerned, including jurors.
The Lord Burnett of Maldon
Lord Chief Justice