18 May 2021

CPS - Covid HS in the courts - Dispute resolution

In response to serious concerns around court safety and increasing levels of Covid-19 infections within the Court estate PCS entered into a formal trade dispute with CPS. We set out 6 key requests which needed to be addressed to improve safety at cou

We are pleased to report that following positive and meaningful negotiations with employer representatives we have achieved a number of concessions in the dispute over court safety which meet our 6 demands. These concessions provide further safeguards for those deployable to court and address the concerns raised by PCS members across England and Wales.

1. A joint review and agreement of what constitutes business critical work: PCS made it clear that there needed to be implementation of measures that ensure listing is not excessive and covid-19 safety measures can be met at all times. In the case Triage document, which was developed collaboratively between PCS and CPS, there is a list of types of trials to be heard- ‘’priority trials’’. This provides a guide to members in terms of what work should be undertaken during the period of lockdown restrictions.

2. An agreement on attendance at court on an exceptional and voluntary basis: We were clear in our representations that nobody should be forced to attend court if they had concerns over their safety. We have 3 key safeguards for members who feel that it is unsafe at court:

  • The employer has issued a statement making clear that employees should remove themselves from a dangerous situation
  • Employees should speak to their line manager, in advance of attending court if they have concerns about their safety with the aim of resolving those concerns before attendance is required.
  • If concerns remain the ABM should be involved to assist with any resolution and ultimately decide on deployment.

3. An agreed triage listing arrangement is in force where difficulties must be addressed within 48 hours.  If issues are not resolved within 48 hours, then deployment is suspended: The triage document sets out the triage listing arrangements and the process above deals with deployment concerns. The full triage document and all the measures set in it provide a framework for triaging not only from a legal perspective but also a safety one. It provides a clear message that cases should only be listed if it enables safety measures applicable at the time of listing to be maintained at all times.

4. There is a suitable and sufficient Court Service (HMCTS) risk assessment process for each individual court building and the findings shared with CPS staff 48 hours prior to the hearing: We now have a process in which obtaining the HMCTS risk assessment will be part of the FESMs role when they undertake their quarterly inspections of the court. The FESM should also be provided with any updated risk assessment when they take place. 

5. There must be a CPS risk assessment for each and every court, which must be conducted in advance of the hearing date and shared with staff and PCS/DTUS 48 hours prior to the hearing: We have measures set out in the updated CPS Covid-19 Court Risk Assessment to deal with ventilation issues, ensuring that listing is at a level which enables covid-19 safety measures to be followed at all times and use of CVP.  We also have the accompanying H&S reminder sheet with the clear message at the top – CPS  will support any employee who removes themselves from an environment they deem unsafe.

6. That CVP is made available to PA’s and POs and that safety and security arrangements are in place: The triage document refers to paralegals and CVP usage numerous times and makes it clear that they have the same opportunity to use CVP as prosecutors.  The process is set out in Annex C of the triage document. 

Given the above agreements PCS will now write formally to the department to advise that the trade dispute over court safety is resolved. We want to thank members for their continued support throughout the dispute and would ask that any concerns continue to be raised with us so that we can ensure resolution.

Please speak to colleagues who aren’t PCS members and encourage them to join online. Interested in getting more involved in PCS? Email us PCS.Reps@cps.gov.uk.