Courts take steps to be more “Covid-secure”

HM Courts & Tribunals Service are taking additional steps to ensure that courts are more “Covid-secure.”

The announcement that five court sites will offer home testing kits comes after staff at Liverpool Law Courts and Snaresbrook Crown Court backed industrial action following a ballot by The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS).

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:

‘This vote for strike action is an indictment of HMCTS management’s refusal to take Covid in the workplace seriously. Court staff have been working incredibly hard in this pandemic keeping the justice system running but they feel deeply let down and are worried for their safety with high case numbers across the HMCTS estate.

‘Management’s refusal to agree to our sensible proposals including holding critical cases virtually and mandatory Covid testing for staff, is what lies at the heart of this dispute.’

A pilot will see home-testing kits be made available to staff, lawyers, judges and jurors as new safety measures are introduced across the five sites; Birmingham Crown Court, Croydon Combined Court, Liverpool Combined Court QEII, Snaresbrook Crown Court and Wolverhampton Combined Court.

It follows piloting on-site test centres at Manchester Civil Justice Centre and Southwark Crown Court with more sites anticipated to follow.

HMCTS has repeatedly insisted that all of its courts are ‘Covid-secure’ and that there is no evidence of courts being a “super-spreader.” It is investing £113m to ease pressures on courts and tribunals, with a target of recruiting an additional 1,600 staff, improving technology and continuing to implement safety precautions such as plexiglass screens.

£142m is already allocated to speeding up technological improvements and modernise courtrooms. The result of this, and to help reduce the risk of spreading Coronavirus, is that remote technology is now enabling more than 20,000 hearings each week, representing a 4000% rise on the total numbers in March 2020 of 550.

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