Sixteen more courts have been assessed as suitable to hold socially-distanced hearings and will reopen this week, the Ministry of Justice and HM Courts & Tribunals Service have announced.
The confirmed sites for reopening in the week commencing 8 June are:
- Romford Magistrates Court, London
- Barnet Civil and Family Centre, London
- Derby Combined Court, Midlands
- Chesterfield Justice Centre (Chesterfield Court House), Midlands
- Mansfield Magistrates and County Court, Midlands
- Bolton Combined Court – Crown only, Northwest
- Southend County Court, South East
- Horsham Law Courts, South East
- Canterbury Combined Court, South East
- Aylesbury Crown Court, South East
- Portsmouth Magistrates Court, South West
- Salisbury Law Courts, South West
- Swindon Magistrates Court, South West
- Newport Crown Court, Wales
- Merthyr Tydfil Combined Court, Wales
- Llandudno Magistrates Court, Wales
These sites are in addition to the 159 HMCTS locations that have remained open throughout the pandemic and a further nine that have opened in the last few weeks.
The MoJ said each of the sites, which are spread across the country and across all jurisdictions, had been individually assessed and would strictly follow public health guidance to ensure the protection and safety of all court users.
Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland said: “Throughout the coronavirus outbreak, court staff and the judiciary have worked tirelessly to make sure justice has not stood still and I’m pleased that we are now in a position to reopen more of our buildings.
“A functioning justice system is one of the hallmarks of a healthy democracy and today’s update will give confidence to people up and down the country that justice can continue to be done in a way that is safe for all court users.”
Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Burnett of Maldon said: “This is a very welcome step towards reopening all our court buildings. A remarkable volume of work has continued throughout the lockdown, much of it being conducted by judges from home.
“Reopening all of the court estate, using additional accommodation and continuing to use technology imaginatively will enable us to return to and surpass pre-lockdown volumes, helping manage the growing caseload.”
The Senior President of Tribunals, Sir Ernest Ryder said: “All of the Tribunals in the UK are open for business and we have been able to provide an impressive service during the pandemic by working remotely. The re-opening of tribunal buildings is welcomed.
“It will allow us to add to that service for those cases which are not best suited to remote methods of hearing, where face to face determination by a tribunal panel is important.
“We will continue to develop the technology that has been introduced for use in remote hearings and in our buildings and we will use this opportunity to increase the number of panel hearings that take place.”
The HMCTS and the MoJ said work had begun to identify suitable venues to house so-called ‘Nightingale’ courts. “These would use public spaces, such as civic centres or university moot courts, to allow traditional court buildings to manage more work while maintaining social distancing – whether that be by hosting full hearings or allowing victims and witnesses to attend remotely.”
A working group has been established to develop these plans, made up of HMCTS officials, the judiciary, legal professional bodies, representatives of victims’ groups and other court users.