FACE COVERINGS IN COURT AND TRIBUNAL BUILDINGS: NEW RULES FROM THE 27th JULY 2020

Susan Acland-Hood, Chief Executive of HMCTS has written a letter to Michael Duck QC, leader of the Midland Circuit (and presumably to other Circuit leaders and solicitors representatives as well) relating to the wearing of face coverings in the public areas of court and tribunal buildings. 

 

 

I’m writing to inform you that from Monday 27 July 2020 we are asking all court and tribunal users to wear a face covering in the public areas of our buildings in England. This move is part of our comprehensive work to minimise COVID-related risks throughout our buildings, and is based on the latest advice from Public Heath England.

Individuals may be asked to temporarily remove their face covering for identification purposes. Court rooms themselves will be continue to be covered by the current guidance which says that court users may wear face coverings whilst in the courtroom. However, when people are speaking or presenting evidence in the courtroom, face coverings may be removed (and judges or magistrates may ask for them to be removed), and while speaking without a face covering, 2 metres social distancing will be strictly observed.

We ask that those using our court and tribunal buildings bring their own face coverings wherever possible, but can ask for one from a member of staff if they don’t have one. Those using our buildings do not need to wear a face covering if they have a practical reason not to, including for the following reasons:

•       they have disability or health issue that makes it difficult

•       wearing one will cause the wearer severe distress

•       if a deaf person needs to read the individual’s lips (though speech-to-text apps should also be considered)

•       for eating, drinking or taking medicine.

Please note that this latest guidance refers to the use of face coverings in England only. Those people using our buildings in Wales and Scotland may also wear them, but they are not mandatory.

We’ll be updating our public-facing face coverings guidance on GOV.UK on Monday 27 July 2020 to reflect this change.

I’d be grateful if you could share this information, which has also been sent to your communications team, with your members through your own channels.

The safety of all our court and tribunal users remains paramount. We’re continuing to comprehensively assess the risk to staff and all users, ensuring the safety of anyone who comes into our buildings by applying published court and tribunal coronavirus safety controls, and do this in line with the latest criteria.

We will continue to keep you informed should we be required to make any further changes to how we operate, which will only be done when it can be done safely and based on evolving public health guidance.

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