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Ministry of Justice clarifies those key workers seen as “essential to the running of the justice system”

The Ministry of Justice has shared a list of key workers considered “essential to the running of the justice system” during the coronavirus outbreak and therefore whose children will be prioritised for education provision, the Bar Council has revealed.

The MoJ provided the clarification after the Cabinet Office and the Department for Education produced guidance for schools, childcare providers, colleges and local authorities in England on maintaining educational provision.

The Ministry said legal practitioners covered within the “essential to the running of the justice system” category, and, in particular, the courts and tribunals, were:

  • Advocates (including solicitor advocates) required to appear before a court or tribunal (remotely or in person), including prosecutors;
  • Other legal practitioners required to support the administration of justice including duty solicitors (police station and court) and barristers, solicitors, legal executives, paralegals and others who work on imminent or ongoing court or tribunal hearings;
  • Solicitors acting in connection with the execution of wills, and
  • Solicitors and barristers advising people living in institutions or deprived of their liberty.

“Only legal practitioners who work on the types of matters, cases and hearings listed above, will be permitted to be classified as a keyworker,” the MoJ said.

The Ministry added that some legal practitioners will intermittently fall into this category because they need to provide advice or attend a hearing for an urgent matter relating, “for example, to safeguarding of children or vulnerable adults, or a public safety matter”. For the limited time required to deliver this work, a legal practitioner will be a key worker.

“As the government has said, many parents who are key workers may be able to ensure their child is kept at home and every child that can safely be cared for at home, should be.”

Amanda Pinto QC, chair of the Bar Council, said: “The government has rightly acknowledged that the Bar and other legal practitioners are fundamental to the running of the justice system. That is why it has recognised that some barristers are key workers. Of course, all those involved in the justice system play a vital role in its administration.”

She added: “The government's guidance makes clear that, even if you are a key worker, if your child can be looked after at home, they should be. In the current climate, schools are open as places of safety, for the few children who cannot safely be looked after at home, because those caring from them are key workers doing essential work. This applies to essential workers not just in the justice system, but in all areas; for example, it applies to key NHS workers.

“Barristers should decide for themselves whether they fall within the category of key worker and, if so, whether they can nevertheless keep their children at home or need to send them to school. As the short government's guidance states, it may be that you don’t fall into the category of key worker all the time, but there comes a point when you do, because of a change of workload.”

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