The UK Government has announced an expansion of face-to-face hearings is planned this week as 16 more court and tribunal buildings open across England and Wales.
A further three courts in Wales will open this week (8th June). This follows an announcement that Cardiff Crown Court would reopen for jury trials from the 18th May.
The three Welsh courts are:
- Newport Crown Court
- Merthyr Tydfil Combined Court
- Llandudno Magistrates Court
These three sites, which join 13 courts to open this week across England, have been assessed as ‘suitable to hold socially-distanced hearings’. Each building has been individually assessed and will 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, added:
“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:
“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.”
Work has also 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.
Courts and tribunals tracker list during coronavirus outbreak. This page holds a tracker list of open, staffed and suspended courts during the coronavirus outbreak and is regularly updated.