This week marked an important first step to implement the Lord Chief Justice’s plan to restart new jury trials which were temporally adjourned after 23 March.
Juries were sworn in at four courts – Manchester Minshull Street, Bristol, Cardiff and The Old Bailey – and all proceeded into a second day with no reported problems. The feedback received from participants, including court staff, jurors, witnesses and legal professionals, has been positive.
I am in no doubt that the good start we have witnessed is in large part down to the meticulous planning and preparation that has been undertaken by all involved, including courts and tribunals staff, criminal justice partners, judiciary and legal professionals who have been working every day to keep the justice system running.
Local HMCTS staff in particular have worked hard in relevant locations to implement the special arrangements agreed by the Jury Trials working group, and I’d like to thank all the jurors, victims and witnesses who took part and were crucial to these first new trials.
As the chair of the working group for more than four weeks, I pay tribute to the constructive and collaborative way that all parties represented on it have worked together. All those involved have brought valuable insight, challenge and solutions that have enabled us to get to this point, and I am particularly grateful to the representatives of Public Health England and Public Health Wales for their advice and support.
The working group has met on two occasions this week in order to assess the experience of the first new jury trials and to undertake further work to establish ways in which more may be commenced safely. There have been particular discussions relating to measures to keep courts clean and to maintain effective air circulation in buildings, and I am pleased to say that the group was reassured that the appropriate arrangements are in place on both these important issues.
Further work is planned to enable jury trials to proceed in additional courts around the country as well as to improve communication around the safety measures that are currently in place in our courts. This work will build on the work being led by HMCTS to ensure the safety of all its buildings and further information is available on GOV.UK.
We are pleased that further new trials are listed to start in Reading, Warwick and Winchester next week.
Mr Justice Edis
Chair of the Jury Trials Working Group