Sports halls and meeting rooms for hotels ‘could become makeshift courtrooms’ for family and commercial hearings to endure backlog of 37,000 jury trials at traditional courts
- Lord Burnett told MPs that closed locations can be used for civil matters
- He hopes crown courts in England and Wales will reopen at the end of June
- Jury trials were halted in March due to coronavirus, increasing the backlog
- Here’s how you can help people affected by Covid-19
Sports halls and meeting rooms in hotels can become ‘makeshift courtrooms’ for family and commercial hearings.
All jury trials were closed due to the coronavirus crisis, leaving a backlog of more than 37,000.
The head of the judiciary in England and Wales, Lord Burnett of Maldon, told MPs yesterday that closed locations can be used for civil matters, The Times reported.
This would mean that trial by jury could take place in normal courtrooms after they were discontinued on March 23 by Lord Burnett and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, QC.
Lord Burnett of Maldon, head of the judiciary in England and Wales, told MPs yesterday that closed locations can be used for civil matters
One jury trial requires three courtrooms with social distance rules. A courtroom for the judge, jury members, lawyers and witnesses, another for the public and the press and a separate one for deliberations.
Lord Burnett told the Commons that he hopes all crown courts in England and Wales will reopen and jury proceedings will resume in late June.
The backlog is estimated to grow by another 1,000 a month, and it was about 37,000 before the lockdown began.
On March 17, six days before the closure was announced, criminal trials that are likely to take more than three days will be postponed to prevent the bug from spreading in courtrooms.
Trials can be held in lecture halls or large halls so that people can be kept two meters apart because traditional courts, such as London’s Old Bailey, are too small
Police are now being asked to use out-of-court methods such as community service to solve a backlog of lawsuits caused by coronavirus, The Times reported Tuesday.
Thousands of prosecutions for drug offenses, theft and criminal harm will be dropped to clear the gap.
Jurys can be shortened to a minimum of seven people to ensure social distance when the courts reopen.
On April 30, Lord Burnett revealed that for the only time since World War II, juries could be reduced in size.
In England and Wales, 12 judges are required in trials, while 15 judges are required in Scotland.
Lord Burnett said trials can be conducted online to maintain social distance when the block is relieved.
He added that tests can be held in lecture halls or large halls, so that people can be kept two meters apart because traditional courts are too small.
Experts also test jury tests remotely using online tools such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams (photo)
Justice Minister Chris Philp told MPs in a virtual meeting earlier this month: “There is absolutely no question of the right to jury trial being dropped.
“We are considering whether we have any more emergency legislation in the coronavirus, which is far from certain, and it is probably less likely that we could consider allowing a minimum jury size of seven instead of nine, such as the now is.
“It takes legislation, I’m not sure there will be more legislation, to be honest.
“But apart from that – the possibility of a minimum of seven instead of a nine – there will be no reduction in the right to trial by jury.”