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 working. This has meant introducing new practices and procedures to make sure our buildings are safe and to minimise risks to the judiciary, staff and all those who attend our courts and tribunals for hearings.

Working towards recovery

In our recovery update we have published details setting out the work being undertaken by HMCTS in the short and medium terms in response to coronavirus (COVID-19). Our vulnerability action plan outlines the way courts and tribunals have changed the way they work to run safely during COVID-19 and enable vulnerable people to access the justice system.

Each week we publish an operational summary on courts and tribunals during the coronavirus outbreak to provide latest information about what is happening across HMCTS.

Coming to court or tribunal during the coronavirus outbreak

Courts and tribunals are open for face to face hearings, making sure that judges, legal professionals, staff and all those attending hearings can maintain effective social distancing.

Some of the rules on what you can and cannot do changed on 12 April 2021. However, these rules still allow essential travel where necessary. This includes all those required to attend a court or tribunal, including jurors, witnesses, defendants, complainants and victims. All our buildings are COVID-secure.

Home test kits will be available for collection from all courts and tribunals and will be offered to all professional court users, legal professionals, judiciary, contractors, jurors, witness services and staff who attend scheduled hearings. We have kits on order, and will be distributing them from mid-April 2021 across our estate.

In England, those who don’t visit a court or tribunal site regularly, work from home, or where home delivery is more convenient, will be able to order home-testing kits online via the new government scheme. You may also be able to get a rapid test from an NHS site. The best way to find a location is to use the NHS COVID-19 Test and Vaccination Site Finder. In locations where new virus variants have been found the government advises you to take a COVID test, whether you are showing symptoms or not.

If you have a test and test positive, do not come to a court or tribunal building. You should contact the court or tribunal to let them know and follow NHS advice.

You should not come to any of our court and tribunal buildings if:

  • you have coronavirus symptoms
  • if you have tested positive for COVID-19 or are waiting for a test result
  • if you have been instructed by the NHS to self-isolate

Please contact the court or tribunal before you are due to attend so that suitable arrangements can be made for your hearing. Read our guidance about coming to court during the pandemic.

While public health legislation allows those involved in legal proceedings to come out of self-isolation when necessary, you must consult with the court or tribunal first who will consider and decide on appropriate arrangements.

Read the latest NHS information about coronavirus (COVID19).

We have increased use of telephone, video and other technology to hold many hearings remotely. We make best possible use of the equipment available and are updating and adding to that. Some hearings, the most obvious being jury trials, cannot be conducted remotely, but take place in COVID secure buildings.

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

Your hearing notice will inform you whether it is taking place in person, via video (CVP) or telephone. If you are self-isolating and unable to attend in person, please contact the court or tribunal immediately so alternative arrangements can be considered.

If you are asked to attend court or tribunal to participate in legal proceedings – such as providing evidence as a witness or a defendant – then this counts as an essential reason for travel. Have your hearing letter with you if you need to provide that proof your journey is essential. Remember to bring any other papers you need for your hearing with you too.

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

Getting advice

We have a range of guidance available to help our users when coming to a court or tribunal:

There is separate government advice about:

Assessing and managing coronavirus risk

We have comprehensively assessed risk to staff and users and are ensuring the safety of anyone who comes in to our buildings by applying published court and tribunal coronavirus safety controls. These have been endorsed by Public Health England and Public Health Wales.

A process for checking compliance at each site is in place, with controls reviewed and monitored at each court and tribunal building. We encourage all court users to raise any issues you experience within our buildings with local managers.

We will continue to carefully consider whether additional or different guidance or controls are required to manage the change in any risks.

Risks within general office locations, where social distancing and other safety measures are in place, will continue to be assessed and in line with government guidance for ‘working safely in offices and contact centres’. An assessment tool provides court and tribunal colleagues with approved standards to assess individual building safety for all users.

Our organisational risk assessment enables us to review our buildings safety regularly - allowing us to identify, mitigate and take action wherever necessary.

These indicators will guide local assessments of all our buildings. It will help us to identify and act quickly on any areas of concern. And if we cannot resolve any major issues swiftly, we will temporarily close the building until we are satisfied that it is safe to re-open.

You should contact the court or tribunal direct to request a copy of an individual COVID-19 risk assessment for our buildings.

Staff in courts and tribunal buildings are working hard to ensure the safety of those who use them. Decisions about the use of specific properties for particular types of hearings, such as criminal jury trials and Nightingale courts, will be made according to agreed procedures

Public Health experts confirm court and tribunal COVID-secure arrangements appropriate

Public Health experts consider advice from SAGE when making their recommendations on COVID-secure arrangements for workplaces. Our policies on mitigations, as approved by Public Health experts, are sufficient for dealing with the challenges provided by the new variant of the virus. Current available evidence on the new variant shows it is spreading faster than other SARS-CoV-2 strains currently circulating in the UK. Therefore the existing mitigation measures (social distancing, hand hygiene, ventilation and face covering usage) must be rigorously adhered to and everyone must unfailingly follow the hands-face-space-guidance. We continue to act on the standards, advice and guidance available for workplaces, and where those change we will update our policies to meet any new guidelines.

Jury trials and jury service

The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Burnett of Maldon announced that jury trials would start from 18 May 2020. This followed discussions with the Lord Chancellor, Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP.

Trials will take place under special arrangements to maintain the safety of all participants, including jurors. These measures include supporting social distancing and appropriate cleaning standards and have the express support and backing of Public Health England and Public Health Wales.

Our information on Crown Courts that have resumed jury trials can be used to find out which Crown Courts have been assessed as currently suitable to hold jury trials.

The essential work of courts and tribunals continues. National lockdown restrictions (England), alert levels (Wales) and local protection levels (Scotland) allow people to travel when necessary. This includes all those required to attend a court or tribunal, including jurors, witnesses, defendants, complainants and victims. All our buildings are COVID-secure.

You should not come to any of our buildings if you have coronavirus symptoms or are self-isolating for any reason or you are clinically extremely vulnerable. If you need to isolate you must contact the court or tribunal straight away to let them know.

Special arrangements in place for jury trials

Arrangements to allow appropriate social distancing to be maintained at all times include but are not limited to:

  • providing a second courtroom linked by closed circuit TV, to enable the media and others to watch proceedings
  • a separate courtroom for jury deliberations
  • use of plexiglass to help keep people separated
  • entrances and exits are carefully supervised
  • increased building and touchpoint cleaning will take place

Special arrangements have been put in place to ensure physical access to jury trials for the media and members of the public.

If you are attending a jury trial under these new arrangements see our user guide on what we have put in place and what we expect of you: Jury trials checklist (PDF, 465KB, 4 pages)

Each Crown Court has had to meet clear standards and criteria approved by public health bodies before holding jury trials.

If you have received a jury summons

If you receive, or have already received a jury summons for a future date, please keep planning to attend court but do not attend court unless you have been contacted by a jury officer. They will contact you to confirm the days and time you need to attend during your service. At that stage, if following government advice you need to self-isolate, you will not be expected to start your jury service. You will need to contact the court to let us know if there’s another reason why you cannot attend. If you are not needed for jury service, the court will let you know.

Due to coronavirus we have closed our water fountains and cafes. Make sure you bring sufficient food and bottled water (not glass) with you for the day. Note that you may be required to taste test on entry to the building. You can claim towards the cost of your food and drink.

If you need to speak to someone about your personal circumstances, please contact the Jury Central Summoning Bureau on 0300 456 1024. You can also see our general guidance on jury service.

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 tribunals through the following 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 14 April 2021 + show all updates
  1. Covid testing information updated.

  2. Update to national lockdown rules.

  3. Assessment tool document updated.

  4. organisational risk assessment updated.

  5. Updated reference to local testing.

  6. Update Welsh guide on providing evidence as a witness.

  7. Guidance on giving evidence as a witness updated

  8. Added translation

  9. Guidance updated to confirm that people doing jury service are considered to be critical workers and reconfirm when to not attend court due.

  10. Added translation

  11. Message on social distancing updated.

  12. Change to link to national lockdown rules from 5 January 2021.

  13. Updated local restriction tiers guidance

  14. Local tier restrictions replace national lockdown.

  15. Updated the Assessment Tool document

  16. Updated HMCTS organisational risk assessment published.

  17. Update on when you should not come to a court or tribunal building.

  18. Added translation

  19. Update on self-isolation and court attendance.

  20. Updated Welsh assessment tool.

  21. Guidance on giving evidence as a witness updated.

  22. Adding infomation on local COVID alert levels.

  23. Added translation

  24. Guidance revised and updated.

  25. Additional guidance for regular court users and witnesses providing evidence during coronavirus document updated.

  26. Guidance for witnesses providing evidence during coronavirus updated.

  27. Additional safety guidance updated.

  28. Providing evidence as a witness during the coronavirus outbreak updated in Welsh.

  29. Providing evidence as a witness during the coronavirus outbreak document updated.

  30. Updated 'Additional safety guidance for regular court users' document

  31. Updated from jury trials working group 22 May 2020

  32. Jury trails and safety information updated.

  33. Jury service info updated.

  34. Jury trials judicial working group added

  35. Jury service section updated.

  36. Coming to court section amended

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

  38. Added priority courts and tribunals information.

  39. Added social distancing infomation.

  40. Update to jury service information

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

  42. HMCTS cleanliness and hygiene measures updated.

  43. Updated HMCTS priorities added.

  44. Telephone and video guidance updated.

  45. Jury service gudiance added.

  46. Additional secuity guidance when entering our buildings

  47. First published.