Romford Magistrates’ Court due to reopen this week
- Credit: Archant
Romford Magistrates’ Court is due to reopen this week as the UK continues to emerge from the Covid-19 lockdown.
Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland praised the judiciary and court staff for ensuring that “justice has not stood still” in recent months, as he said that the latest move will give people confidence that justice can “continue to be done in a way that is safe”.
A total of 16 more buildings across England and Wales, including Romford, have now been assessed as suitable for socially-distanced hearings, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.
The court, in Main Road, Romford, has been closed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with hearings scheduled to take place there either postponed, held elsewhere or done remotely.
In echoes of the Nightingale hospitals set up to help treat Covid-19 patients, the MoJ said work has started to identify suitable public venues such as civic centres to act as Nightingale courts, enabling more work to be carried out, such as full hearings, or allowing victims and witnesses to attend remotely, whilst maintaining social distancing.
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Many hearings, where possible, both in the civil and criminal courts, have been conducted remotely since lockdown measures were imposed at the end of March.
Mr Buckland, who is also the Justice Secretary, said: “Throughout the coronavirus outbreak, court staff and the judiciary have worked tirelessly to make sure justice has not stood still and I’m pleased that we are now in a position to reopen more of our buildings.
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“A functioning justice system is one of the hallmarks of a healthy democracy and today’s update will give confidence to people up and down the country that justice can continue to be done in a way that is safe for all court users.”
Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, the most senior judge in England and Wales, said the move is “a very welcome step towards reopening all our court buildings”.
He added: “Reopening all of the court estate, using additional accommodation and continuing to use technology imaginatively will enable us to return to and surpass pre-lockdown volumes, helping manage the growing caseload.”
Jury trials resumed last month, nearly two months after being put on hold due to coronavirus lockdown measures.
The first courts where juries were sworn in included the Old Bailey and Cardiff Crown Court, with special arrangements in place to maintain social distancing and other safety measures.