We are faced with unprecedented times with the global outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Although keeping the emergency services (police/fire/ambulance) operating is clearly essential, there is also a fight to keep our justice system from breaking down.
Trials do not always run smoothly at the best of times and now with the Coronavirus our justice system has taken a real hit, as it is faced with staffing issues, trials starting and having to restart due to jurors self-isolating, along with people rightly being advised to distance themselves due to being in a high risk category or the possibility of affecting others.
The justice system and the Courts are an integral part our society. Without an efficient process, people are left in limbo, innocent wrongly accused, left on remand, trials going on for months or even years. There is also, of course a risk of an increase in illegal behaviour if there is a perception of little of no consequence due to court closures.
It is apparent that more lengthier trials are going to be difficult to navigate and so the Lord Chief Justice (LCJ) has been faced with a decision – do we follow suit of other countries and close our courts down or do we try to run a reduced operation. After constant review, he has decided the latter.
The LCJ made the decision earlier this week to take the pressure off the Courts and limit trials to three days or less therefore trying to reduce the risk of infection but also alleviating a potential massive backlog of cases if he was to close down all Courts now. This will of course be kept under constant review as the situation we all face is changing by the hour.
A statement from the Judicial Office said: