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UK News Coronavirus in the UK: How criminal trials will be delayed to help stop the spread of Covid-19

14:55  18 march  2020
14:55  18 march  2020 Source:   inews.co.uk

Jury trials halted in England and Wales over coronavirus

  Jury trials halted in England and Wales over coronavirus All jury trials in England and Wales have been put on hold to halt the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. © Other Courts are the latest public service forced to adapt to the coronavirus outbreak Courts have been told to use "considerable imagination and flexibility" to work up plans for every person to be two metres apart from each other before trials can begin again.Lord Burnett, head of the judiciary in England and Wales, said social distancing is a "particular concern" to address as the government prepares to rush through emergency laws to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Crown court trials due to last longer than three days will be postponed in a bid to fight the spread of coronavirus . A man wears a protective mask and gloves in London amid the Covid - 19 outbreak (Picture: EPA). Regents Street becomes deserted as people stay indoors over coronavirus fears

Coronavirus Disease 2019 ( COVID - 19 ) is most often spread from person to person among close contacts (about 6 feet). COVID - 19 is a new disease and we are still learning how it spreads , the severity of illness it causes, and to what extent it may spread in the United States.

  Coronavirus in the UK: How criminal trials will be delayed to help stop the spread of Covid-19 © Provided by The i

The coronavirus outbreak is taking a huge toll on daily life in Britain and across the world.

It has been announced that criminal trials in England and Wales that may last longer than three days will be put on hold in an attempt to delay the spread of Covid-19, which has so far infected at least 1,950 people in the UK.

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However the Bar Council, which represents 17,000 barristers in England and Wales, believes this advice does not go far enough and that there should be a "30 day suspension of all in-person civil, family and crime hearings".

Criminal trials be delayed in efforts to tackle spread of Covid-19

  Criminal trials be delayed in efforts to tackle spread of Covid-19 It was announced no new trial should start in any Crown Court unless it is expected to last for three days or fewer. As a result, cases longer than three days that were due to start before the end of April will be postponed.The announcement came after pressure mounted on the Government to make clear its strategy for courts, amid growing concerns about the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on court business.

Hearings of over three days deemed to pose unacceptable risk of spreading coronavirus .

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What does the announcement mean?

No new trial should start at any Crown Court, which deals with serious criminal cases, unless it is expected that it will last for three days or less, the most senior judge in England and Wales has announced.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett said any cases that would last longer, and were due to start before the end of April, will be postponed.

The decision on trials will be under constant review and the position on short trials may change as the circumstances around the virus develop.

What about trials already taking place?

These trials will continue to hopefully wrap them up.

Why criminal trials?

The reason some criminal trials have been postponed is because they pose a particular risk during the outbreak.

Coronavirus in the UK: Jury trials halted in England and Wales over outbreak

  Coronavirus in the UK: Jury trials halted in England and Wales over outbreak No new trials will start and as many hearings as possible will happen using telephones, video calls or other technologyIn a statement on Monday Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett - the most senior judge in England and Wales - announced no new trials will begin, while ongoing trials will be stopped until arrangements are in place that will allow them to continue safely.

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The involvement of a judge, jurors, defendants, lawyers, witnesses and court staff could increase the chance of Covid-19 spreading.

"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," said Lord Burnett.

What about family and magistrates' courts?

There are no jurors involved in these courts but steps are being taken to allow the hearings to take place as safely as possible. There will be options for some of the people involved to take part by telephone, videolink 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," said the statement from Lord Burnett.

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Media captionCoronavirus in the UK : Five things you need to know about Covid - 19 . Many more people may be forced to self-isolate as part of efforts to stop the coronavirus spreading in Britain, the head of NHS England has warned.

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According to the BBC, the power to use technology in more hearings will be included in emergency legislation that is being drafted.

What has the reaction been?

There has been immense pressure on the judiciary to act as the virus grips the nation.

The Bar Council earlier called on the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to stop jury trials "for the time being". It said there were reports of jurors being forced to drop out of cases due to self-isolating, or coming to court when they should have stayed away, putting the health of others at risk.

In an update to members of the Bar on Wednesday, chair of the Bar Amanda Pinto QC maintained that all in-person hearings across all jurisdictions should be suspended, except for very special circumstances.

"Initially we suggest a 30-day suspension of all in-person civil, family and crime hearings, after which we should take stock," she said.

"We appreciate the efforts the MoJ has made to address them, but we have serious concerns about standards of hygiene and facilities within court buildings, such as lack of soap, sanitising hand-gel and running water and the cleaning of conference and court rooms. We are also very concerned about the security checks that are necessary for safety but inadequate to mitigate the risk of infection being passed on," she added.

What about Scotland and Northern Ireland?

The Scottish Government has said: "No new criminal jury trials will be commenced or new juries empanelled until further notice."

Jury trials are also being postponed in Northern Ireland.

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