PCS is calling for an immediate review of safety arrangements across HM courts and tribunals service amid increasing concerns that courts are unsafe as the number of Covid-19 cases rises sharply.
We have told Kevin Sadler, acting CEO of HMCTS that there has been a failure to implement measures to ensure that all buildings are Covid-19 secure. In a joint statement sent today by our general secretary Mark Serwotka with a number of organisations representing staff in the justice sector, including Napo, POA, FDA and The Criminal Bar Association, we say HMCTS has failed to take timely and appropriate action to improve safety arrangements as levels of transmission of Covid-19 in courts and tribunals buildings have escalated.
There have been more than 600 positive cases among professional court users across the HMCTS estate since 24 November, which evidences the alarming extent of the crisis emerging in the justice sector. If HMCTS continues to fail to take action to ensure that transmission levels are significantly reduced and professional, lay and public court users remain safe, then further action will be necessary.
That remedial action must include the rapid introduction of lateral flow testing at every court and for every prisoner brought to court, to ensure that all court users test negative before they enter buildings. All of those signatory organisations of this statement agree that the new Covid-19 variant is transmitting at a rate up to 70% higher than the first lockdown and that the priority must therefore be the safety and well-being of all court users, their families and their communities.
Despite HMCTS continuing to give assurances that they are implementing all available measures the evidence and repeated concerns raised demonstrate that these measures are inadequate. The recurrent claims that courts and tribunals are safe and Covid-secure bear no resemblance to the reality of the conditions in most buildings across the estate.
Our calls for safety for all court users are realistic and achievable and must be met as a matter of urgency. We expect HMCTS to rectify the current situation by taking the appropriate actions necessary to ensure the safety of all who attend court. Failure to do so will result in potential political, legal and industrial responses from some of the signatory organisations of this statement.