Jury trials to resume in selected courts
Following the suspension of jury trials on 23 March 2020 due to the Covid-19 lockdown it is anticipated that a small number of trials will begin to be heard in the week commencing 18 May 2020.
Since the suspension of all trials, the Jury Trials Working Group chaired by Mr Justice Edis has worked to establish ways in which a small number of trials may commence safely and in accordance with Public Health England guidelines. The Jury Trials Working Group consists of representatives from the legal profession and across the criminal justice system.
The first juries will be sworn in at the Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey) and Cardiff Crown Court. Further courts around the country are undergoing assessments against criteria developed by the Working Group.
Social distancing is to be adhered to at all times during the trial and in jury deliberations. Second courtrooms will be utilised to provide a live link to enable reports and others to watch proceedings. A third courtroom will be set aside for jury deliberations. The number of jurors will remain at 12.
Some part-heard trials have already recommenced. A murder trial at the Old Bailey resumed on Monday with jurors sitting shorter hours to avoid having to travel to Court during rush hour.
The Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett said “It is important that the administration of justice continues to function whenever it is possible in an environment which is consistent with the safety of all those involved”.
The move has been welcomed by lawyers to relieve the pressure of a backlog of approximately 37,000 criminal cases that has accumulated since the lockdown. It will be a number of weeks, if not months before any resemblance of normal service will be resumed.
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Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.