To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the (a) social distancing, (b) cleaning, (c) workplace incident control, (d) ventilation arrangements and (e) other safety arrangements in Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Service in keeping staff and court users safe; and if he will make a statement.
Maintaining access to justice while keeping people safe is HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) top priority. As an essential public service, courts and tribunals have remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We have invested an additional £110m so all of our buildings are COVID-secure and can continue to operate safely.
We closely follow all Public Health and government advice on COVID-secure arrangements and update our policies to meet any new guidelines. Our approach to risk assessment is set out in our Organisational Risk Assessment (ORA) published at the start of the pandemic. It’s implemented on the ground by site-specific local risk assessments which are carried out and reviewed at least weekly, to review the measures in place and make sure they continue to meet the safety controls to the standard required.
Our range of control measures include:
Public health experts have confirmed these are sufficient, including to deal with the new variant of the virus. We’re confident these measures meet COVID-secure guidelines through:
We also have an internal HMCTS Workplace Standards Group which continues to oversee our practice and methodology for maintaining hygienic, safe buildings in line with government guidance.
All suspected incidents and/or confirmed cases of COVID-19 within our court and tribunal buildings in England and Wales, and tribunals in Scotland, are reported to HMCTS. Where there are two or more confirmed cases or an increase in suspected incidents within 14 days linked to a single site, a national team provides additional support and guidance to local court and tribunals in managing the response, and early identification of close contacts so they can be informed to self-isolate in support of NHS Test and Trace.
In line with public health guidance, where there are five or more confirmed cases (for England) or two or more confirmed cases (for Wales and Scotland) within a 14-day period we will refer them to local health protection teams who will assess the individual circumstances and provide any further advice and guidance. COVID-19 cases in HMCTS are in line with national trends and transmission within the estate is limited due to the mitigations in place.