Covid-19, LCCSA News
Magistrates’ Courts Update
PUBLISHED January 23, 2021
At the end of last week I shared the response I received by HMCTS leads in London to our call for action. Discussions have been ongoing and this week I have attended meetings with both national and London magistrates’ courts working groups. This is a summary of developments since last week
- I have obtained a list of CVP capacity by court room for venues in London to help practitioners better plan their attendance in advance. The capacity has increased recently and new capability has been timetabled within the document. Click here
- Please note the emphasis on there being an assumption in favour of advocates being permitted to use CVP, this is a significant change.
- I have made it clear that applications made in advance are not always responded to. If you apply in advance and do not receive a response, renew the application on the morning to the CVP inbox for your court. If you are applying for a court which has CVP you can be assured it is likely to be granted for non-trial work.
- Further they will do their best to move you into a CVP court if you are not in one.
- I am aware some courts around the country are allowing parties to use Teams or audio links to join hearings. While CVP is the preferred option there is nothing to stop these technologies being used where appropriate and available.
- Marshals have been recruited and are ready to work to help ensure there is a culture of compliance with distancing and mask wearing. Please can we welcome their presence and recognise that although it is not ideal, posters and signs alone were not working.
- We called for a reduction in the number of people attending who were not participants in a hearing. The courts will now only allow one supporter per person which we hope will further reduce numbers in the public areas.
- I was alarmed to hear reports that some detainees were being produced to court in the cells while displaying COVID symptoms. The police confirmed that no one exhibiting symptoms should be sent to the court for overnight matters, it is not limited to those who have tested positive. I have made further enquiries about the screening process in custody to ensure it is effective.
- The court will are trialling ‘misting’, a system for treating room surfaces with an antiviral disinfectant applied in a fine spray. London has been prioritised and will from this Wednesday begin at Uxbridge before being applied at a total of 8 courts in the region over the next few weeks. The briefing note and FAQ documents can be found HERE
- List officers have been instructed to reduce the volume of hearings in the courts and members can expect administrative adjournments to resume, though to a lesser extent than last spring.
The above promises will mean nothing if they are not implemented. I am grateful to those who have already provided examples and I again share the link to a short simple form to complete when you find shortcomings https://forms.gle/WVEq3bH99nGkTCUi7. I share every example with the Head of Legal Operations and this enables them to deal with issues locally.
The Alcohol Abstinence and Monitoring Requirement (AMMR) will go live in England on 31st March 2021, please further details here. With unpaid work not taking place and the entire country effectively under a curfew I predict this requirement will prove a popular alternative for benches, depriving our poor clients of a tipple in front of Netflix.
HMP Thameside video visits
I have been asked to remind members that visitors using the new conferences suites must show a form of identification at the start of slots, as with other prisons.