The PM’s announcement on the 12th July has been heavily criticised by scientists and comes amid rising hospitalisations and deaths. I have been engaging with our CJS partners with your safety in mind, recognising that the level of risk from the virus remains higher than we would have been expected at stage 4. The courts and police station environments in which we work should remain safe and there must be a willingness to resume additional measures if the need arises.
The response from HMCTS in London is set out here and I welcome the pragmatic approach taken to retain many of the safety measures. They have also shared their most recent risk assessment which enables a greater understanding of the standards you can expect. There are contact details for those who wish to raise concerns with national leads at page 2, though I would always recommend writing to the Operations Manager of any court building through the usual email channels.
Version 3 of the Joint Interim Interview Protocol (JIIP), launched in May 2021, enables remote advice to be provided for all suspects who do not require an appropriate adult. It will remain in force for a few weeks beyond 19th July. At a recent meeting between the signatories of the JIIP it was agreed that PPE and enhanced sanitation measures should remain in police custody suites once remote advice ends and remote advice should remain an option for suspects believed to be infected with COVID 19. For this reason we agreed to introduce a version 4 of the JIIP to encapsulate this agreement, rather than simply ending the JIIP altogether.
Those who manage firms need a fair notice period to plan for a return to face-to-face advice in police stations. While we have not agreed a final date, it would be reasonable to plan with mid-August in mind as the earliest point for the change. That will hopefully allow more advisers to become double-vaccinated and to allow for the implementation of new isolation rules from 16th August (see: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/self-isolation-to-be-eased-for-fully-vaccinated-adults-in-step-4.) This should reduce absenteeism rates: double-vaccinated people will no longer have to isolate following close contact with a person with a positive test result. I will confirm final agreements and dates as soon as I am able to.
These changes are not necessarily final and should we be forced back to restrictions at a national level we would argue for the resumption of remote legal advice. Throughout our negotiations it has been recognised that remote advice does not provide the same quality of service to suspects as being there in person, and it is our position that it is only justified on the grounds of safety during the pandemic.
I share with you an announcement regarding the implementation of reforms to the NPS from the Regional Director. We all welcome investment in this service, so they are able to ensure there is credible alternative to custody and something magistrates and judges have faith in. You may feel it fixes problems of the government’s own making, but it is welcome nonetheless. Having recruited heavily in policing, the CPS and probation the Independent Review of Criminal Legal Aid must now deliver investment in defence work, to stop the flow of people leaving the profession that we have seen in recent years.
London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association