Some coronavirus restrictions in England may need to be retained after 19 July to allow courts to run safely and efficiently, the Law Society has warned.
Law Society of England and Wales president I. Stephanie Boyce said: “We are pleased to see that things are getting closer to normal with widespread vaccination allowing for restrictions imposed during the pandemic to be lifted.
“The removal of restrictions including social distancing should allow for the courts to run closer to capacity.
“However, given the backdrop of rising COVID-19 infection rates, many court users will have concerns about a return to ‘normal’.”
Boyce said a wide spectrum of views about the ongoing COVID-19 risks needed to be considered, with some people more vulnerable than others. “Jurors, witnesses and professional court users need to be reassured that they will remain safe.”
She added that there were also practical issues – if members of staff are required to self-isolate, or if a jury is lost mid-trial because of a COVID-19 contact – and said the removal of restrictions could become counterproductive to efforts to beat the backlogs.
“It is therefore likely to be important to retain some restrictions in courts, even if the government removes nationwide legal restrictions,” the Law Society President said.
“It will also be important to keep channels of communication open to ensure we can address court users’ legitimate concerns and find that right balance between making appropriate use of the new flexibility and keeping people assured of their safety.”
Boyce also repeated Chancery Lane’s call for sustained long-term investment into the “threadbare” justice system to beat the backlogs and ensure timely access to justice for all.