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All jury trials in England & Wales on hold over coronavirus fears

All jury trials in England & Wales on hold over coronavirus fears
The lord chief justice, Lord Burnett, has announced that no new jury trials will be held in England and Wales, and any ongoing ones will be paused as the coronavirus crisis continues.

In a statement on Monday, Burnett said that arrangements were being made to conduct as many regular hearings remotely as possible using phones, video and other technology though jury trials cannot be conducted remotely.  

“A review of the arrangements in our courts is called for. I have decided that we need to pause jury trials for a short time to enable appropriate precautions to be put in place,” Burnett said.

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The judge ordered that any and all jurors called to court are to be released, preferably without having entered the court buildings. He added that, in certain extraordinary cases, jury trials may continue but with strict social distancing measures in place throughout. 

The same considerations will apply to magistrates’ courts, while a limited test run of remote hearings in civil and family courts took place last week with apparent success but certain cases can only continue with in-person hearings. Until such time that necessary safety arrangements can be made, these will likely also be put on indefinite hold. 

Lord Burnett, the most senior judge in England and Wales, made the announcement amid mounting pressure on the Ministry of Justice. During a press briefing on Sunday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson touted remote hearings as the solution to the Covid-19 crisis faced by the legal system, but added that his government would be “keeping that under constant review.”

“Don’t come if you are vulnerable, or showing symptoms. But otherwise, do come – because justice is not optional,” Susan Acland-Hood, chief executive officer of HM Courts and Tribunals Service, said on Sunday.

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