HMCTS has introduced social distancing measures and extra cleaning in courts and tribunals to protect you and our staff. This guide will help you prepare for your visit to a court or tribunal during the coronavirus outbreak.
See more general advice on what to expect going to a court or tribunal on the day.
Contact your court or tribunal to let them know.
If we confirmed your hearing is going ahead
You should only go to a court or a tribunal if we have confirmed your hearing is going to take place in person. We will contact you by phone or email to confirm this – there’s no need to contact us.
Use the contact details in your hearing notice to contact your court or tribunal immediately if you:
- cannot travel because the venue is too far or you cannot get to the venue
- need to change the date of your hearing; you’ll need to give a reason for the judge to consider. We’ll contact you as soon as possible to let you know if it’s possible
- need additional support or reasonable adjustments; for example, because of a disability or you have concerns about security on the day of your hearing
On the day of your hearing
Social distancing rules
In line with government guidelines, we have applied social distancing rules in our buildings.
Where possible, you must:
- keep a 2m distance from others; you must do this when queuing to get into the building and washroom, going through security and going in and out of courtrooms.
- leave empty seats between you and other people in the waiting area
Court staff will follow these rules when interacting with you.
Wear a face covering
We’re now asking that court and tribunal users wear a face covering in all public and communal parts of our buildings in England. You can ask a member of staff for a face covering if you need one, though we request that you bring your own.
You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a practical reason (exemption) not to. For example:
- you have disability or health issue that makes it difficult
- wearing one will cause you severe distress
- a deaf person you support needs to read your lips
- you are eating, drinking or taking medicine.
Children under the age of 11 (in England) do not need to wear a face covering.
If you have a reason why you cannot wear a face covering, you may find it helpful to wear a lanyard with an exemption card or to carry an exemption card with you. Exemption cards are available to download on GOV.UK, or see our .
You may be asked to temporarily remove your face covering for identification purposes. If you are presenting evidence in the courtroom, the judge or magistrate may also ask you to take your face covering off temporarily.
If you need to communicate with someone who relies on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound, they may ask you to take your face covering off.
Those people using our buildings in Wales and Scotland may also wear face coverings, but they remain optional.
Going through security
When you enter the building, our security officers will:
- give you instructions to help them search your bags at a 2m distance
- ask you to go through an archway detector. If our security officers need to search you, they will use a hand-held detector to search you at a close distance. They will not touch you, and you’ll be facing your back to the officer.
See what things you can and cannot bring when going through security.
Make sure you bring enough food and bottled water with you for your visit
We have closed our water fountains (these are the water dispensers that you drink water directly from) and we have removed water carafes and glasses from the court rooms. You’ll be able to take bottled water into the hearing room.
Water coolers/dispensers (where you fill cups and drinking bottles from) and vending machines are still in use in some buildings. We’ll clean these frequently. You should wash your hands after use.
As we do not provide refreshments in all our buildings, you can bring your own food and drink in the waiting area.
We have introduced extra cleaning measures to make our buildings safer for you and our staff. This includes:
- hiring more cleaners to do deep and frequent cleanings throughout the day
- checking washrooms more often to make sure they’re well-stocked
- closing buildings where there are safety concerns
If you see anything we could improve or does not comply with the advice on social distancing and cleanliness in our buildings, please let a member of staff know or use our “Let us know service”.