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 tribnuals 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 157 priority court and tribunal buildings open for essential face-to-face hearings. Our court and tribunal buildings are devided as follows:

  • 157 open courts – these buildings are open to the public for essential face-to-face hearings
  • 124 staffed courts – staff and judges will work from these buildings, but they will not be open to the public
  • 89 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

The Government has announced that it considers those essential to running the justice system as key workers and unless you have heard from us or you are self-isolating based on Government and NHS advice you should continue to attend the court or tribunal.

All court and tribunal users are reminded you should read the latest information about prevention, treatment, travel and staying at home. These include but are not limited to witnesses, those attending for jury service, defendants, professional courts users and justice system partners.

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 cleanliness and hygiene measures for coronavirus

Any issues with cleanliness at a site, or problems that would prevent users washing their hands, is being dealt with as a matter of priority. We have also asked our contractors to pay extra attention to cleaning basins and hand-washing facilities and court staff have been asked to check these every day, including supplies of soap and paper towels.

If we have a confirmed case of coronavirus we will - follow Government guidelines and carry out a deep clean of the setting or areas with which the individual would have had contact.

We are seeking to provide hand sanitiser at every site and expect an initial batch to arrive this week for dispatch to courts. We have given sites permission to source it wherever they can, and some have done so. It is important to note that the advice remains that the best protection is washing with soap and water; lack of sanitiser does not make a site ‘unsafe’, but we appreciate the additional reassurance that it can give.

New contractors, Engie, take over the cleaning of the courts from 1 April 2020; the new contract is more stringent than the old and we are making sure Engie understand our expectations especially during this outbreak.

Security and hand sanitisers

We recently changed our security policy to allow people to also bring hand sanitiser into our buildings - our security officers will ask you to use it to prove it’s not harmful.

Court security officers may ask you to move items inside your own bag or ask if they can do this themselves. You can ask them not to touch your belongings, and move them yourself, if you prefer.

Court security officers sometimes use a handheld scanner to search people coming to court, but neither this nor the officer will touch you.

The guidance for court security officers is the same as for the general public, which is that best protection – for themselves and others – is to wash hands regularly with soap and water.

We will continue to monitor and review the practice of court security officers in line with government advice and industry best practice.

Entering and leaving court and tribunal buildings

To maintain social distancing in our courts and tribunal buildings, we’ll ask our users to make sure there is at least 2 metres’ separation between everyone at all times.

This includes:

  • queuing to get into our buildings
  • going through security checks
  • inside hearing rooms and public galleries
  • in jury assembly areas
  • in jury retiring rooms
  • when moving to and from courtrooms.

We’ll stagger arrival times, lunchtimes and times for leaving our buildings at the end of the day. Users with agreed access passes may be able to use other entrances.

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 28 March 2020 + show all updates
  1. Added priority courts and tribunals information.

  2. Added social distancing infomation.

  3. Update to jury service information

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

  5. HMCTS cleanliness and hygiene measures updated.

  6. Updated HMCTS priorities added.

  7. Telephone and video guidance updated.

  8. Jury service gudiance added.

  9. Additional secuity guidance when entering our buildings

  10. First published.