We, the undersigned continue to call for an immediate review of safety arrangements across the HMCTS estate amidst rising concerns that some courts are unsafe.
Despite collectively raising our concerns HMCTS have failed, and continue to fail, to take timely and appropriate action to improve safety measures. Significantly high levels of transmission of Covid across the HMCTS estate are continuing to be reported.
The science is clear: the virus is transmitted both in airborne droplets and also within aerosol. For the 7 days prior to the 20 January 2021, staff rates including tribunals were at 461.8 per 100,000 against a national figure of 390.5. Clearly this evidences the alarming extent of the crisis within the justice sector and supports the assertion that courts and tribunals are unsafe. These figures should concern anyone associated with the criminal justice system and demonstrate how important it is to take enhanced and urgent remedial action to make courts safe.
HMCTS must therefore now act immediately to implement the following remedial actions:
1. Roll out lateral flow testing to all courts and for all prisoners prior to their attendance at court.
2. Marshals to patrol public court areas and to ensure compliance with safety measures.
3. Ensure that court maximum occupancy levels are identified, displayed and adhered to at all times
4. Ensure that court room maximum occupancy levels are identified, displayed and adhered to at all times
5. To implement an outbreak notification protocol that is consistent and available to all lay and professional court users.
These initial identified actions must be taken without further delay to address the serious and significant safety concerns shared widely across the justice system. We expect HMCTS to arrange a collective meeting for all of the signatory organisations to this statement at the earliest opportunity to discuss our concerns and the clear, realistic and achievable actions proposed.
Our calls for safety for all court users must be met by 1 March 2021. Failure to do so will result in potential political, legal and industrial responses from some of the signatory organisations of this statement.
- James Mulholland QC, chair, Jo Sidhu QC, vice chair, The Criminal Bar Association (CBA)
- Daniel Bonich, chair of The Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association (CLSA)
- Mark Troman, president, The London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA)
- Alan Williams, vice chair, The Solicitors' Association of Higher Courts Advocates (SAHCA) (Criminal Advocates Section)
- Mark Serwotka, general secretary, Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)
- Duncan Woodhead, national officer for FDA
- Siobhan Foreman, vice chair for National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) and Family Courts.
- Steve Gillan, General Secretary, Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers (POA).