Ministry of Justice Coronavirus Guidance – Attending Court
Information on what court trials will proceed, and the protocols for attending court in the light of the Coronavirus outbreak.
This page provides advice and guidance for all court and tribunal users during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and will be updated when new advice is available.
HMCTS coronavirus preparation planning
During this unprecedented public health emergency, it’s essential that our courts and tribunals continue to administer justice. We’re adjusting practices and taking steps to minimise any risk to the judiciary, staff, professional and public users, including justice partners. Any changes to individual hearings will be communicated directly to those affected, usually by email and/or phone.
We have put in place arrangements to use telephone, video and other technology to continue as many hearings as possible remotely. We will make best possible use of the equipment currently available; and are working nonstop to update and add to that. Some hearings, the most obvious being jury trials, cannot be conducted remotely.
This morning (23 March 2020), the Lord Chief Justice has announced a temporary pause on new jury trials in the Crown Court while measures are put in place to ensure that physical hearings can take place safely and in accordance with advice on social distancing.
Coming to court or tribunal during the coronavirus outbreak
All court and tribunal users should read the latest information about prevention, treatment, travel and staying at home. These include but are not limited to witnesses, those attending for jury service, defendants, professional courts users and justice system partners.
Stay at home if you have either:
- a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
- a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
To protect others, do not go to places like a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Stay at home.
Use the 111 online coronavirus service to find out what to do. Only call 111 if you cannot get help online.
As long as you, or the people who have to come with you, do not have confirmed or possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection or do not need to self-isolate in line with NHS advice, you should continue to attend courts and tribunals as planned, unless informed otherwise. This includes those attending for jury service. Please see our guidance on what to expect when coming to court and our guidance on entering a court or tribunal building.
If you, or the people who are coming to court with you, do have confirmed or possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection or need to self-isolate in line with NHS advice, you should contact the court or tribunal in which the hearing is due to take place. You can find contact details on Courts and Tribunals Finder.
Government guidance is available for workplaces. Although courts and tribunals are not businesses, the principles should be applied to the work of courts and tribunals. We will follow this Government-wide advice in relation to managing our buildings and making decisions about keeping them open.
Jury service is one of the most important civic duties a citizen can undertake and is an essential part of the criminal justice system. It is not in the same category as optional activities like going to the theatre. However, we are carefully following Government advice and keeping the situation under constant review. This advice will be updated if the position changes.
Following the Lord Chief Justice announcement on 23 March 2020 on jury trials and in light of the latest coronavirus (COVID-19) advice, we need to make sure that everyone in courts can be kept safe, particularly regarding social distancing. This means that all new trials will be postponed for a short time both to allow us to make arrangements and to give us more space to manage existing trials.
Wherever possible, trials which are already underway will continue until they reach a conclusion. This means that if you are currently serving on a jury and have already been selected for a trial, you will be expected to attend as normal unless the court where you are serving as a juror has asked you not to.
If you have already started your jury service but have not yet been selected for a trial, or if you are due to start jury service this week or any time after this, please do not attend court unless you have been contacted by us.
However, you are not expected to start or complete your jury service if:
- you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), or have been diagnosed with a coronavirus (COVID-19) infection
- official Government advice says you need to self-isolate
- you are over 70 years of age, have a weakened immune system, an underlying health condition, or are pregnant.
- there is another reason why you cannot attend.
If you meet one or more of these criteria and can no longer undertake your jury service, please contact the court.
If you wish to speak to someone about your personal circumstance in respect of your jury service in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, please contact the Jury Central Summoning Bureau on 0300 456 1024.
We will keep in touch with you and let you know if the position changes. We’re carefully following Government advice and keeping the situation under constant review. please keep planning to attend court, unless you are in one of the categories above; but please also keep checking this page for further information, as the situation is changing rapidly.
You can also see our general guidance on jury service, including what you may be able to claim back from the court.
Hygiene in courts and tribunal buildings
We know that people will be particularly concerned about hygiene at present, and though the Government advice is that concentrating on hand cleaning is the most important measure, we are putting extra effort into court cleaning.
Our buildings are cleaned every day and we respond swiftly to complaints about poor hygiene. We are monitoring our hand washing facilities to ensure swift maintenance action if needed but, if you see something of concern, please let the court know so they can put things right.
Additional cleanliness and hygiene measures for coronavirus
Any issues with cleanliness at a site, or problems that would prevent users washing their hands, is being dealt with as a matter of priority. We have also asked our contractors to pay extra attention to cleaning basins and hand-washing facilities and court staff have been asked to check these every day, including supplies of soap and paper towels.
If we have a confirmed case of coronavirus we will – follow Government guidelines and carry out a deep clean of the setting or areas with which the individual would have had contact.
We are seeking to provide hand sanitiser at every site and expect an initial batch to arrive this week for dispatch to courts. We have given sites permission to source it wherever they can, and some have done so. It is important to note that the advice remains that the best protection is washing with soap and water; lack of sanitiser does not make a site ‘unsafe’, but we appreciate the additional reassurance that it can give.
New contractors, Engie, take over the cleaning of the courts from 1 April 2020; the new contract is more stringent than the old and we are making sure Engie understand our expectations especially during this outbreak.
Security and hand sanitisers
We recently changed our security policy to allow people to also bring hand sanitiser into our buildings – our security officers will ask you to use it to prove it’s not harmful.
Court security officers may ask you to move items inside your own bag or ask if they can do this themselves. You can ask them not to touch your belongings, and move them yourself, if you prefer.
Court security officers sometimes use a handheld scanner to search people coming to court, but neither this nor the officer will touch you.
The guidance for court security officers is the same as for the general public, which is that best protection – for themselves and others – is to wash hands regularly with soap and water.
We will continue to monitor and review the practice of court security officers in line with government advice and industry best practice.
How we will update you about the impact of coronavirus on courts and tribunals
If there are wider changes to the operational running of the courts this will be communicated in the first instance on our digital channels:
Telephone and video hearings during coronavirus outbreak
Judges can consider telephone or video links in a number of circumstances. This includes for example where a defendant does not need to attend in person an application to appeal refusal of bail in the crown court, or in preliminary and enforcement hearings. We will make as much use of our current technologies as possible, and are working urgently to increase our capacity, so we can keep our courts and tribunals running smoothly.
HMCTS priorities during coronavirus outbreak
We have strong business continuity plans to ensure we can respond to and continue our work in extraordinary circumstances, including public health outbreaks.
More information and advice
Read the latest information about the Government’s coronavirus response and plans.