Juries: Coronavirus

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 18th January 2021.

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Photo of Rosie Cooper Rosie Cooper Labour, West Lancashire

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps his Department is taking to ensure the safety of elderly and vulnerable members of the public who are summoned for jury service during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

HM Courts and Tribunals Service has well entrenched safeguards to ensure safety of all people in its buildings. This includes vulnerable people selected for jury service who are at particular risk if leaving their homes. From 23 March 2020, when Covid-related restrictions were first commenced, the Jury Central Summoning Bureau (JCSB) has been dealing sympathetically with requests to be excused from serving or deferring service to another date. Each application is considered on its own merit and where possible, the JCSB will look to deferral in the first instance, to enable the individual to undertake their civic responsibilities at a different time.

In addition, HMCTS staff are contacting every juror in the week before they attend court to provide them with the opportunity to discuss their personal circumstances.

When jurors (and any others) do come to court, HMCTS has in place a range of safety measures and controls, to ensure that they remain safe whilst in our buildings. These measures have been developed in line with and are validated against, relevant public health standards to ensure court and tribunal buildings are Covid secure. The measures have all been reviewed in light of continually developing circumstances. This has enabled HMCTS to deliver its vital public services, including jury trials, throughout the period affected by pandemic-related restrictions.

The framework of measures developed and implemented generally to ensure Covid-related risks are appropriately managed and controlled is set out in the HMCTS Organisational Risk Assessment. Among the measures embedded across the court and tribunal estate are significantly enhanced cleaning regimes, the provision of washing facilities and sanitiser throughout buildings for users as well as staff and judiciary, social distancing measures implemented, and a requirement for face coverings in all public and communal areas. Juror-specific controls introduced have included the provision of screens in courtrooms and deliberation suites where local, site-specific risk assessments demonstrate the requirement to ensure and enhance their safety.

HMCTS has published, and regularly updates, a full suite of information on its Covid-secure practices. Weekly updates are now sent direct to a range of key stakeholders, social media tools are routinely used to try to reach ever-wider audiences, and in all court and tribunal venues, clear signage is displayed to promote and explain our safety measures.

We have invested considerable effort to assure ourselves as to compliance on the ground. We also have responsive complaints and escalation procedures in case they are necessary. We ask all users of the courts and tribunals – including but not limited to jurors – to take personal responsibility, for adhering to the simple and well-understood hands/face/space protocols prevalent across society generally. Tailored information and guidance on Covid safety is provided to jurors in this regard.

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