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JOINT MESSAGE FROM THE CIRCUIT LEADERS
As you will have heard from the LCJ yesterday, some new jury trials will be started from the week commencing May 18.
 
Circuit leaders understand that criminal practitioners are keen to get back to work, but are understandably anxious to avoid taking risks in the workplace.
 
It is understood by Circuit leaders from local information that the courts where a handful of trials may be resumed in the near future are the Old Bailey, Cardiff, Bristol, Reading, Warwick, Winchester, Manchester Minshull St.  The cases which will be heard will be single-defendant, short, urgent trials, where witnesses are available.  It seems likely at the start that only one trial will take place in any court building at one time, with the exception of the Old Bailey.
 
The courts where new trials may start have been approved by Public Health England and Public Health Wales, which have been involved in the detailed arrangements. Circuit leaders have asked for further detail about the criteria which has been used so far to deem some courts suitable for jury trials.
 
It is expected that counsel, the jury, the judge, the defendant as a minimum will be in one courtroom.  Reporters and the public will be able to watch from a second courtroom on a videolink. The jury will use a third courtroom as a retiring room.
 
Practitioners involved in those trials can expect with confidence that the judiciary will manage the trials in a way which protects their health: the precise arrangements will plainly be different depending on the courtroom, and the case. 
 
HMCTS have published and updated guidance about what you can expect, including from security and in the custody suite 
here.   Court staff will supervise entrances and exits and monitor cleaning.  Circuit Leaders have visited a number of these courts in recent days.  While we are not H&S experts, it is clear that a very great deal of thought and care has gone into making the arrangements safe and complaint with PHE/ PHW guidance. 
 
The second stage will be to open further courts which can be approved as safe for jury trials. Other courts are being assessed to see whether jury trials can safely be conducted there, also in line with guidance from PHE and PHW. 
 
These two stages are a welcome start, but they will produce a trickle rather than a flood of cases.  The third stage, a resumption of many jury trials, is likely to be dependent on the government’s rules about social distancing and lockdown. Circuit leaders are still pressing for all possible options to be considered, including in particular using other buildings for bail trials. None of the possibilities are without problems, and none of them are quick fixes.
 
We are sorry not to be able to convey better news to criminal practitioners, but can provide reassurance that much work is being done to ensure that you will be able to go back to work if you choose, as soon as it is safely possible. 
 
Kate Brunner QC, Western Circuit
Mike Duck QC, Midland Circuit
David Elias QC, Wales & Chester Circuit
Mark Fenhalls QC, South Eastern Circuit
Lisa Roberts QC, Northern Circuit
Richard Wright QC, North Eastern Circuit
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