Guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): courts and tribunals planning and preparation

This page provides advice and guidance for all court and tribunal users during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and will be updated when new advice is available.

HMCTS response to coronavirus outbreak

During this unprecedented public health emergency, we’re working hard to keep our justice system functioning. We’re focusing on priority cases, changing working practices and introducing new procedures to minimise risks to the judiciary, staff and all those who use our courts and tribunals.

Please see our daily operational summary on courts and tribunals during the coronavirus outbreak to get the latest information about what is happening across HMCTS. Any changes to individual hearings will be communicated directly to those affected, usually by email and/or phone.

We have published detailed information on our priorities during the coronavirus outbreak.

Priority courts during coronavirus outbreak

A network of priority courts will remain open during the coronavirus pandemic to make sure the justice system continues to operate effectively. The work of courts and tribunals will be consolidated into fewer buildings, maintaining the safety of all in the courts and in line with public health advice.

These temporary changes, designed in partnership between HMCTS and the judiciary will help maintain a core justice system focused on the most essential cases.

From 30 March 2020, we will have priority court and tribunal buildings open for essential face-to-face hearings. Our court and tribunal buildings are divided as follows:

  • Open courts – these buildings are open to the public for essential face-to-face hearings
  • Staffed courts – staff and judges will work from these buildings, but they will not be open to the public
  • Suspended courts – these courts will be temporarily closed

Check if the court or tribunal you plan to visit is open using the tracker on the link below:

Courts and Tribunals tracker page and list

Search our court and tribunal venues and their contact details.

Telephone and video hearings during coronavirus outbreak

We’re increasing use of telephone, video and other technology to continue as many hearings as possible remotely. We will make best possible use of the equipment currently available; and are working nonstop to update and add to that. Some hearings, the most obvious being jury trials, cannot be conducted remotely.

Read our new guidance on how HMCTS will use telephone and video technology during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Coming to court or tribunal during the coronavirus outbreak

All court and tribunal users are reminded you should read the latest information about prevention, treatment, travel and staying at home.

Priority courts will remain open for face to face hearings, making sure that judges, legal professionals, staff and all those attending hearings can maintain effective social distancing.

Media and members of the public will be also able to attend priority court hearings in person if safe to do so, unless self-isolating based on Government and NHS advice, or have heard from us.

If you are due to attend a court or tribunal for a hearing you will be contacted by email and/or phone. Read our guidance on changes to court and tribunal hearings for more information. Please do not attend unless you have heard from us.

There is separate advice about:

Our court and tribunal buildings during coronavirus

We know that people will be particularly concerned about hygiene at present, and though the Government advice is that concentrating on hand cleaning is the most important measure, we are putting extra effort into court cleaning.

Our buildings are cleaned every day and we respond swiftly to complaints about poor hygiene. We are monitoring our hand washing facilities to ensure swift maintenance action if needed but, if you see something of concern, please let the court know so they can put things right.

Additional detailed guidance on security, cleaning and social-distancing arrangements in court and tribunal buildings during the coronavirus pandemic.

Jury service

Jury service is one of the most important civic duties a citizen can undertake and is an essential part of the criminal justice system. It is not in the same category as optional activities like going to the theatre. However, we are carefully following Government advice and keeping the situation under constant review. This advice will be updated if the position changes.

Following the Lord Chief Justice announcement on 23 March 2020 on jury trials and in light of the latest coronavirus (COVID-19) advice, we need to make sure that everyone in courts can be kept safe, particularly regarding social distancing. This means that all new trials will be postponed for a short time both to allow us to make arrangements and to give us more space to manage existing trials.

Wherever possible, trials which are already underway will continue until they reach a conclusion. This means that if you are currently serving on a jury and have already been selected for a trial, you will be expected to attend as normal unless the court where you are serving as a juror has asked you not to.

If you have already started your jury service but have not yet been selected for a trial, or if you are due to start jury service this week or any time after this, please do not attend court unless you have been contacted by us.

However, you are not expected to start or complete your jury service if:

  • you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), or have been diagnosed with a coronavirus (COVID-19) infection
  • official Government advice says you need to self-isolate
  • you are over 70 years of age, have a weakened immune system, an underlying health condition, or are pregnant.
  • there is another reason why you cannot attend.

If you meet one or more of these criteria and can no longer undertake your jury service, please contact the court.

If you wish to speak to someone about your personal circumstance in respect of your jury service in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, please contact the Jury Central Summoning Bureau on 0300 456 1024.

We will keep in touch with you and let you know if the position changes. We’re carefully following Government advice and keeping the situation under constant review. Please keep planning to attend court, unless you are in one of the categories above; but please also keep checking this page for further information, as the situation is changing rapidly.

You can also see our general guidance on jury service, including what you may be able to claim back from the court.

Keeping up to date with the impact of coronavirus on courts and tribunals

We will communicate changes to the operational running of the courts and triunals through the follwing channels:

Read the latest information about the Government’s coronavirus response and plans.

Please see the latest advice and guidance from the judiciary in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.

Published 13 March 2020
Last updated 3 April 2020 + show all updates
  1. Coming to court section amended

  2. Updated with link to new guidance on keeping court and tribunal buildings safe, secure and clean.

  3. Added priority courts and tribunals information.

  4. Added social distancing infomation.

  5. Update to jury service information

  6. Applications to adjourn civil and family hearings because of coronavirus link added

  7. HMCTS cleanliness and hygiene measures updated.

  8. Updated HMCTS priorities added.

  9. Telephone and video guidance updated.

  10. Jury service gudiance added.

  11. Additional secuity guidance when entering our buildings

  12. First published.