Tuesday, 3 Oct 2023

Coronavirus forces criminal trials to be put on hold as pandemic spreads in UK

Criminal trials due to last longer than three days will be put on hold as part of ongoing government efforts to delay the spread of coronavirus.

It comes after barristers demand a halt to trials in England and Wales to stop the health roulette between jurors and the public.

The move affects cases set to start before the end of April and which will now be postponed.

Government officials have been under pressure to outline its strategy for the legal system following concerns about COVID-19 affecting court business.

Trials set to take three days or fewer are the only cases which will be heard in any crown court.

The measures will help to fight containment in already financially stretched prisons – inmates are drinking hand sanitiser for its alcohol content.

Irish Prison Service (IPS) has been obliged to source special alcohol-free sanitiser to give to prisoners during the current crisis.

In a statement, the IPS said: “The unique environment of a prison and the sheer numbers and diversity of people who pass through our prisons make vigilance around infection prevention and control absolutely necessary.

Announcing the delay, a statement read: "Given the risks of a trial not being able to complete, the Lord Chief Justice has decided that no new trial should start in the Crown Court unless it is expected to last for three days or less.

"All cases estimated to last longer than three days listed to start before the end of April 2020 will be adjourned.

"These cases will be kept under review and the position regarding short trials will be revisited as circumstances develop and in any event next week.

"As events unfold decisions will be taken in respect of all cases awaiting trial in the crown court."

  • Coronavirus

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