Guidance

Keeping court and tribunal buildings safe, secure and clean

This page provides details about security, cleaning and social-distancing arrangements in court and tribunal buildings.

These arrangements help us maintain safety of all in our court and tribunal buildings and are in line with government and Public Health guidance.

Look out for information posters to guide you in our buildings.

Keeping safe when queuing and going through security

You must go through security every time you enter a court or tribunal building.

You can help staff by making sure you:

  • maintain social distancing, including while queuing and on entering our buildings in Wales and Scotland
  • do not enter until you are invited to by a court security officer or a member of court staff
  • respond when asked whether you have any COVID-19 symptoms. You will not be invited into the building if you appear to have symptoms
  • only bring items that you’re allowed to bring in

Bag searches

Our court security officers will check your bags without making physical contact. They will carry out the search from a distance following this process:

  • before the search begins tell the security officer if you have items in your bag that you would prefer not to be in public view
  • you will be asked to open your bag so the security officer can check you’re not carrying any items you’re not allowed to take in
  • you may be asked to empty the items into a tray and step back
  • once you have stepped back, the court security officer will visually check the contents in the tray and your bag
  • you may be asked to prove to our security officers that your hand sanitiser is not harmful
  • the security officer will then step back and advise you that you may collect your belongings, after you have walked through the archway detector

Archway detectors

You will usually walk through an archway detector.

In Wales and Scotland, you need to maintain social distancing as you walk through the archway.

Remember to empty all loose or metal items into the trays before you walk through.

If an item is detected by the archway detector:

  • the security officer will guide you back and forth through the archway until the item is identified and you can pass through the archway without an alert
  • if after three attempts, an alert still sounds, the security officer will use a hand-held detector to detect the item

Use of hand-held detectors

If an alert is still sounding after you have made three attempts to walk through the archway detector, court security officers will need to conduct a search with a hand-held detector.

To carry out the search the security officer will need to come closer. The search will follow this process:

  • you will be asked to confirm you agree to the search procedure
  • if you decline you will be asked to leave the building and you will need to contact us or your legal representative by phone
  • the security officer will explain that they will come closer
  • they will talk you through their actions without touching you
  • in our Wales and Scotland buildings you will be asked to face away from the security officer
  • you must not change your position or the direction you are facing during the process

Social distancing within the building

Our courts and tribunals in England will have minimal social distancing in place. In Wales, meanwhile, it is hoped most COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted on 7 August 2021. In Scotland, it is hoped all major restrictions will be lifted on 9 August 2021. We will, however, based on Public Health expert advice, continue to reduce the risk of the virus spreading by:

  • requiring all users to wear a face covering in our public and communal parts of our buildings
  • using screens or barriers to separate people who will come into close proximity with others they do not normally meet
  • assessing our estate for ventilation, continuing with our existing ventilation standards. Carbon dioxide monitors will also be used as additional assurance in building areas identified through our risk assessment process

Throughout our estate, our staff may encourage you to follow measures to help reduce the risk of the virus spreading - these will vary for the different buildings depending on layout. Our staff may:

  • advise you to leave empty seats between you and other people in the waiting area
  • restrict the number of people using the toilets or washrooms at any given point in time
  • advise when you can enter or leave courtrooms, to avoid cross-traffic in the doors and to restrict the number of people in court or in the public galleries at any point in time

You can help staff by making sure you follow any local arrangements inside the court or tribunal building.

You must not come to a court or tribunal if you have COVID-19 symptoms, are self-isolating, or you are quarantining after travel abroad.

Our building ventilation systems use air handling units to extract stale air and replace it with a supply of fresh, filtered air.

Wear a face covering

You are required to wear a face covering in all public and communal parts of our buildings unless you are exempt.

You can ask a member of staff for a face covering if you need one, though we request that you bring your own.

You may be asked to temporarily remove your face covering for identification purposes. If you are presenting evidence in the courtroom, the judge or magistrate may also ask you to take your face covering off temporarily.

If you need to communicate with someone who relies on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound, they may ask you to take your face covering off.

If you cannot wear a face covering, you can help us by wearing one of our sunflower lanyards and exemption cards. We will offer these to you when you arrive if you are exempt.

Additional cleanliness and hygiene measures

We have introduced extra cleaning measures to ensure our court and tribunal buildings are safe during the pandemic.

HMCTS cleaning principles

Custody suites in courts

Based on Public Health advice, we’ve will continue to apply social distancing measures in our custody suites. This is due to their nature, with sometimes limited space and frequent people transitioning through. This will minimise the risk to all detainees, professionals and staff working and visiting the custody suite. Prisoner Escort and Custody Services (PECS) will ensure that visits are conducted safely and practically within the confines of the custody suite.

PECS has completed risk assessments in every court custody suite to make sure we have the right measures to keep custody users safe and minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19. Safety measures include:

  • restricted access to court custody areas to a limited number of known persons
  • use of consultation rooms that support social distancing
  • regular touchpoint cleaning, in addition to daily cleaning routines
  • use of locked down phones in custody suites to allow remote consultations where this is possible.

In addition, we will supply fluid resistant surgical masks to professional users to wear while they are providing legal consultation in custody suites.

Our guidance outlines the use of FRSMs: Wearing of Fluid Resistant Surgical Masks in custody suites. Professional users should also familiarise themselves with this guidance on how to wear and remove face coverings: How to wear and remove your face covering or mask.

Published 29 March 2020
Last updated 19 July 2021 + show all updates
  1. Guidance updated to reflect step 4 of the government roadmap, 19 July 2021.

  2. Guidance updated for 17 May 2021.

  3. Custody suites in courts section updated.

  4. HMCTS cleaning principles added.

  5. Added translation

  6. Message on social distancing updated.

  7. Added translation

  8. Custody suites in courts guidance updated.

  9. Consoliudated infomation from other pages.

  10. Face coverings in Wales update

  11. Guidance updated. Face coverings to be worn in all public and communal parts of buildings in England.

  12. Page updated with 'Wear a face covering' section

  13. Face coverings advice updated.

  14. Custody suites in courts section updated.

  15. Updated coronavirus symptoms.

  16. Updated 'food and water in our buildings' section.

  17. Infomation on hygiene and cleanliness in buildings updated.

  18. Custody suites in courts info added.

  19. First published.