Scaling back of non-essential work – PRIORITY LISTING MEASURES – London Magistrates’ Courts
EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY – 23 March to and including 3 April 2020
PRIORITY CASES ONLY
CONSOLIDATION OF MAGISTRATES’ COURT PRIORITY WORK INTO FEWER SITES
REVIEW and further announcements to follow
These are very challenging times. Rightly, everyone is doing their utmost to keep essential public services operating for the benefit of society. Justice is undoubtedly a keep public service and crucial to effective and safe operation of society. Within that fundamental principle, however, it is possible to evaluate priorities within justice.
Having considered all principles, operational reality and the importance of government health guidance on social distancing and isolation, it is now in my view both necessary and urgent for London magistrates’ courts to change our approach to day-day listing.
These further measures on listing involve judicial decisions. Under the terms of the Criminal Practice Direction XIII Annex A2(d) the day to day operation of the Listing practice rests with me as the Justices’ Clerk. In reaching these decisions I have, of course, consulted other executive and judicial seniors as possible in the circumstances. In other times, further discussion would have been possible and desirable. In such fast-moving times, decisions are continually under review. It is imperative that all understand that London Magistrates’ courts will move to a temporary listing pattern for the shortest duration. We are working day and night to consider how best to introduce new methods of hearing cases and will work with justice partners to restore work to lists as soon as safe and possible. The introduction of the Priority only listing pattern for two weeks from today will ensure much needed social distancing whilst we take stock across HMCTS London and formulate additional responses to handling cases. This temporary pause on lower priority work will be reviewed.
NOTE: this decision does not affect the opening of public buildings which, where safe to do so, could still be open for business for other jurisdictions or administration of the courts generally. Local HMCTS managers will be able to advise.
• All London Magistrates’ Courts to move to hearing ONLY Priority cases – as defined below
• The Priority cases are listed below - but in summary the majority of priority cases are custodial cases (including youth cases where bail has been denied).
• The above listing pattern to operate between 23/3/20 to and including 3/4/20 – and to be reviewed thereafter
• A reduced list of Magistrate Court sites to operate hearing this priority work for the same period. The list of courts is below.
• Cases on bail will be adjourned/remanded for a standard 28 days as a holding position for further review, which may be sooner. Parties are excused from attending in person. Cases will be further adjourned/remanded as required.
• Cases where there has been no remand (e.g. summons, requisitions etc.) will be adjourned for 2 months or until further notice. These cases are adjourned for a date to be fixed – which may be earlier than 2 months where other video/audio/digital methods can be introduced
• ALL Single Justice Process work will be adjourned for two months or until further order (see attached)
• For the avoidance of doubt the following courthouses will not deal with magistrates’ court work during this initial pause period: Ealing, Bexley, Romford, City of London, Stratford, Hendon, Lavender Hill
• Local managers will advise staff and judiciary about re-deployment to the sites which will operate. Unless otherwise advised, buildings will remain accessible to other agencies and contractors who work on these sites
• due to the urgency of this decision we will make every effort to avoid unnecessary travel to court for cases which will now not be heard. Agencies are working together at great speed to achieve this and I’m incredibly grateful for their efforts and of our own staff. Tomorrow and potentially Wednesday this week we will consider deploying HMCTS staff to front of house in order to advise parties who attend, on this decision and consequences for their bail etc. Staff must obey the social distancing guidance when dealing with any court users and in accordance with local guidance from their managers. Additional arrangements to enforce social distancing at front of house will be considered e.g. tables to separate people
• All custody cases, to include:
- Overnight custody cases from police stations (inc arrest warrants and breach of bail cases)
- Productions from prisons
- Arrest warrants issued under the Extradition Act
• Applications to extend custody time limits
• In hours and out of hours terrorism applications
• Civil applications relating to public health legislation, particularly under the Coronavirus (Emergency) Act 2020
• Warrants of further detention (police and HMRC)
• Closure order applications
• Urgent applications for DVPOs
• Urgent applications for rights of entry / search warrants
• Any public health or coronavirus related prosecutions (inc breaches of restrictions or requirements imposed to protect public health, and other criminal activity designed to exploit the situation)
• Out-of-hours cases (including search warrants)
• Sensitive/high profile cases and cases involving children and vulnerable witnesses/victims*
• Youth Cases – involving a remand into custody, including youth detention accommodation and Local Authority Accommodation
• Custody trials*
*CPS will review all of their cases pending trial and inform courts locally of any particularly sensitive or urgent cases which they may seek to have retained in lists
Please direct any immediate questions on this to @londonholo