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Face-to-face hearings likely to proceed in ‘Plan B’

By December 15, 2021February 16th, 2022Coronavirus, Government, People

In person hearings are likely to continue despite the government’s ‘Plan B’ to deal with the increasing coronavirus cases, with decisions on remote attendance left to the preference of judges.

Boris Johnson announced last night that where possible, people should work from home as of Monday, as part of the latest restrictions introduced to tackle the rise in cases of the Omicron variant.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service guidance for courts and tribunal users was updated this week to mirror the prime minister’s announcement, but does not seem to comprise any meaningful change.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson declared that it will continue to be a matter for individual judges to choose whether or not to use the cloud video platform, or alternative means of organising a remote or hybrid hearing, saying a ‘top-down missive’ was doubtful.

A spokesperson for the judiciary also noted that there was unlikely to be any adjustments to the operation of the courts, highlighting that lawyers and court staff are considered essential to the running of the justice system, and had been considered key workers during the height of the pandemic.

A criminal barrister at Pump Court Chambers, Nigel Pascoe QC, remarked on Twitter that circuit leaders should ‘consider a joint statement which seeks to interpret that new guidance in practical terms’. ‘The bar should not be required to take greater risks than other sectors,’ he continued.

In the meantime, London firm Kingsley Napley has notified all staff who are able to work from home to do so immediately, with internal meetings to be conducted remotely where possible, however their office continues to stay open for meetings if people are happy to. Leigh Day, a national firm has also informed staff to work from home unless it is not possible to do so.

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