URGENT UPDATE – PRIORITY MAGISTRATES’ COURTS
I wrote to you and all court users yesterday announcing London’s interim priority listing arrangements in response to COVID-19. I think all will immediately accept these are very fast-moving times and, I hope, all will also accept that everyone is pulling out all stops to reduce court operations in magistrates’ courts to only the essential cases.
As you will know, further announcements were made last night. The Prime Minister announced further measures. HMCTS continues to review essential operations today. The CPS has confirmed its’ interim policy this morning to cover only priority custodial cases today – to be clear, this new level of priority decided by the DPP for CPS does NOT include custody trials. HMCTS court staff and other agencies are responding night and day and at incredible speed to update advocates and court users of these developments. I am proud at how hard they are working to protect all from needing to attend court for anything other than essential cases.
Inevitably, the timing of the announcements may mean today that some advocates attend court for cases only to be vacated or crack. I appreciate and note that many advocates are making their own informed decisions about whether to attend court or not. This is entirely understandable. As the day progresses we should get to a clearer position for the coming days/weeks. As stated in my messages yesterday, London has moved to priority only listing for the period up to and including 3 April 2020. The work was listed yesterday and now headed as Priority 1 and 2 below.
The further CPS announcement today and HMCTS review overnight means that we will now move to a more reduced listing pattern i.e. the Priority 1 list until further review. The further CPS announcement today i.e. no CPS presence at court for custody trials will be continued until the position is reviewed. These reviews may be necessary before the expiry of the current priority listing pattern i.e. before 3 April 2020. I will advise and update asap.
This Priority 1 list describes the need for essential formal court hearings. These and other measures have been introduced to support social distancing and government health advice. All parties attending court for essential hearings must obey social distancing. HMCTS working with the judiciary will continually review the ability to maintain social distancing within our reduced operations and make revised decisions accordingly on whether it is possible to operate in the list of sites currently operating. We continue to look for ways to manage cases without formal hearings where the law allows.
Please could you circulate this message amongst your colleagues. I am aware that my message from yesterday has been posted on twitter and elsewhere and I am very grateful to you for sharing this information. I will endeavour to update you as soon as new decisions are made. If you do have specific questions which cannot be answered by local courts please do contact me at the following mailbox @londonholo.
Head of Legal Operations (Justices' Clerk)
London Region | City of London Magistrates’ Court | 1 Queen Victoria St | London | EC4N 4XY