Bar Council calls on Ministry of Justice to urgently halt jury trials
The Bar Council believes it is vital that the justice system functions as far as possible but putting people’s health at risk in our courts when this is avoidable, must stop immediately.
Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar Council, said:
“We are calling for the Ministry of Justice to put an urgent halt to jury trials for the time being. Barristers up and down the country are telling us that jurors are having to drop out of cases because they are self-isolating or, worse, coming to court when they should not, and thereby putting everyone’s health at risk. Being in a jury trial should not be a game of Russian Roulette with the participants’ health. All those involved in court proceedings, be they barristers, witnesses, defendants, jurors or members of the public (let alone court staff and judges), should not be expected to attend court, whilst the rest of the country is very strongly urged to work from home and to avoid ‘non-essential contact’ and ‘confined spaces’.
“The Bar Council believes that it is vital that the justice system functions as far as possible but putting people’s health - and in some cases lives - at risk in our courts when this is avoidable, must stop immediately. We know there are plans to use more video and phone technology for court hearings whilst the coronavirus persists, but we must be realistic; requiring groups of strangers to gather closely together is quite contrary to current government advice. We urge the Ministry of Justice to adapt quickly to this rapidly changing environment, by continuing proceedings where possible, but without juries and by not requiring judges, barristers and others to attend hearings in person.”