In response to the MoJ announcement this morning that a network of priority courts will remain open with court and tribunal work consolidated into fewer buildings, Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar, said:
“In the face of this extraordinary pandemic, it makes sense to consolidate our constrained resources to keep the justice system on track. It is in the public interest that justice keeps going and in the circumstances we welcome the use of remote hearings. With much court and tribunal business now being conducted remotely, we hope that keeping fewer court buildings open will ensure essential work can continue without risking the health of those attending court.
“For those courts that remain open to members of the public, judges, legal professionals including barristers, court staff and others, it remains absolutely crucial that no corners are cut when it comes to hygiene and that all proper precautionary measures are in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“These measures will inevitably make access to justice harder for some people. Court closures in recent years have already restricted local access to courts. The new changes will mean that, where it is unavoidable that people must physically attend court, journeys will get longer and access more difficult. The rise in the use of technology must not undermine access to justice for those who are not familiar with it. The Bar Council is working with the MoJ, HMCTS, the judiciary and colleagues across the sector to help with the delivery of justice and to ensure issues that affect access to justice are given the consideration they deserve.
“At the end of this crisis, justice must remain strong and intact and our legal professions must survive to continue to represent the public.