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Lawyers angry as judges demand proof of positive Covid tests

By January 6, 2022February 16th, 2022Coronavirus

Lawyers have voiced their disappointment with reports of judges requesting to see evidence of positive Covid tests before sanctioning a remote or adjourned hearing.

An online memo from the recorder of Winchester, that covers both Winchester and Salisbury Crown courts, noted that no application for an adjournment will be considered unless ‘some evidence’ showing a positive Covid test by a defendant or an advocate.

In light of recent problems acquiring PCR tests, the memo stated that the court would accept a photograph of a positive lateral flow test as evidence.

However, advocates on social media have questioned why such evidence needs to be provided and proposed that judges are questioning their honesty and integrity.

Vice chair of the Criminal Bar Association, Kirsty Brimelow QC said she had highlighted the issue this week with HM Courts & Tribunal Service, which will be followed up with the senior presiding judge.

Beheshteh Engineer, a barrister with 36 Crime chambers, stated: ‘Even if there was an epidemic of lying lawyers, I won’t be providing proof of medical status (not for covid or anything else) on principle. I am trusted not to lie to the court, and that includes on the subject of covid tests.’

Bernard Richmond QC, from Lamb Building, noted: ‘The system works because we value our reputation for integrity and our word is accepted. The criminal bar puts up with a lot but, this is a straw which might just break the camel’s back. Either trust us or don’t.’

Chair of the Bar Council’s disability panel, Faisel Sadiq noted that the underlying message suggested an assumption that some counsel are concealing the truth regarding their lateral flow tests. ‘I am very concerned about where this could lead if not nipped in the bud,’ he added.

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