Coronavirus: Jury Trials Must Be Stopped to Prevent ‘Russian Roulette’ Virus, Lawyers Say | The independent
Jury trials must be stopped to prevent court cases from becoming “a game of Russian roulette” with coronavirus, the lawyers said.
Jurors have been ordered to continue to attend trials unless they are part of at-risk groups or show symptoms, despite the government advice to the general public to avoid contact with others.
The Bar Council, which represents more than 17,000 lawyers in England and Wales, said it was receiving reports of jurors dropping cases across the country.
President Amanda Pinto QC said: “Being in a jury trial shouldn’t be a game of Russian roulette with the health of the participants.
“Everyone involved in legal proceedings, whether lawyers, witnesses, accused, jurors or members of the public – not to mention court staff and judges – should not be held to attend court, while the rest of the country is very strongly invited to work. home and to avoid unnecessary contact and confined spaces.
The Bar Council said some jurors were dropping cases because they were isolating themselves with potential symptoms of coronavirus, while others “came to court when they shouldn’t, thus putting the health of all in danger ”.
He called on the justice ministry to continue the proceedings without people appearing in court, including using video and telephone technology.
“The Bar believes it is vital that the justice system function as much as possible, but putting people’s health – and in some cases lives – at risk in our courts when preventable, must stop immediately,” he said. added a spokesperson.
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Jurors considering the alleged murder of PC Harper were sent home on Tuesday after one of them caught a “horrible cold”.
On Monday, a juror in the trial of suspected Manchester Arena bomb conspirator Hashem Abedi was dismissed from his post after going into self-isolation over the weekend.
There have been other reports of jurors refusing to attend coronavirus court, or refusing to meet with their lawyers, while witnesses were unable to testify due to symptoms of the coronavirus.
Mustapha Hakme, a criminal defense attorney, wrote on Twitter: “Near the end of a serious trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court and the jury, which has been deliberating for about two hours, is about to be released.
“One refused to continue because she is pregnant and two others are not doing well. The courts are about to feel the reality of what we are all facing. “
But any decision to postpone trials will add to a backlog of criminal cases already caused by the reduced number of sitting days.
James Mulholland QC, Vice President of the Criminal Bar Association, said: “The criminal justice system is already in crisis and the coronavirus is likely to bring it to the point of collapsing.”
The Lord Chief Justice said it was “unrealistic to assume that business will proceed as usual in any jurisdiction, but it is vitally important that the administration of justice is not ‘don’t stop’.
In a statement on Tuesday, Lord Burnett said there was an “urgent” need to increase the use of phone and video technology to hold hearings at a distance.
“Emergency legislation is being drafted and is likely to contain clauses that extend the powers of criminal courts to use technology in a wider range of hearings,” he added.
“Our immediate goal is to maintain service to the public, to ensure that the greatest number of hearings in all jurisdictions can take place, and to continue to deal with all urgent matters.”
HM Courts and Tribunal Service insisted cases would continue on Monday, with updated guidelines calling jury service an “essential” part of the criminal justice system and “one of the most important civic duties that a citizen can undertake “.
For those already on trial, jury service is still ongoing, and individuals must appear in court “unless they have a reason not to.”
“We are carefully following the government’s advice and constantly monitoring the situation,” an official document said.
He adds that for those “who are currently sitting on a jury, you will have to attend normally”, unless they show signs of covid-19 or a diagnosis of the disease; are over 70 years old, have a weakened immune system, an underlying health problem, or are pregnant; follow official government advice on self-isolation; or there is some other reason why they cannot attend.
Anyone wishing to be released was told to call the central jury summons office, which was experiencing a high volume of appeals on Tuesday morning.
An automated message instructed callers to submit written permission requests.
English civil courts could relax rules and time limits in pending cases in anticipation of delays in the coming weeks due to the coronavirus.
Law firm Leigh Day said on Tuesday that one of its attorneys had received an instruction on time extensions in a brain injury case in which he is currently involved.
The company said an order from the High Court – which it called the “covid-19 direction” – means parties involved in the case can agree to extensions of up to 56 days by consent without further order. of the court, in the light of the hearth.
Additional reports by PA