Building remains open to the public and cases will continue
It’s “business as usual” in the Supreme Court amid growing concerns of the coronavirus.
“The Supreme Court is currently operating as business as usual but we are constantly reviewing plans and they are, of course, subject to change,” a statement by the UK’s top court read yesterday.
“As things stand, the building remains open to the public and the Court cases will continue. We will update the public via our website and social media channels if this situation changes.”
The update follows new social distancing measures, announced by Boris Johnson in yesterday’s daily briefing. The Prime Minister urged the public to avoid “non-essential” contact and work from home where possible to curb the spread of the virus.
In response to the briefing, Chris Philp, justice secretary, confirmed the “courts will be operating normally” and “justice will continue”.
To confirm that Courts will be operating normally tomorrow. Of course people who need to self-isolate as per the medical advice should do so. But for those not in isolation, Justice will continue and Jurors should attend Court tomorrow as per their Summons
— Chris Philp (@CPhilpOfficial) March 16, 2020
Every Briton over the age of 70 will be told “within the coming weeks” to stay at home for an extended period to protect themselves from the risk of contracting coronavirus, health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed over the weekend.
In fresh guidance issued on Friday, HM Courts & Tribunal Service (HMCTS) said the business of our courts and tribunals will continue during the current phase of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Our buildings are cleaned every day and we’ll also respond swiftly to complaints about poor hygiene,” the advice makes clear, adding that “given the importance of handwashing at the moment, our cleaners will give extra attention to checking bathrooms and handwashing facilities.”
HMCTS also recently relaxed its security policy to allow people to bring hand sanitiser into courts and tribunals, with security officers asking court users to use it to prove it’s not harmful.
In light of the coronavirus pandemic some barristers have taken to Twitter to shed light on the state of toilets in the justice system.
Lucy Reed, family barrister at St John’s Chambers, divulged details of the ladies’ at Barnet County Court:
@CEOofHMCTS Barnet county court ladies toilets today. Entire place was filthy. No paper hand towels. Walls and floor grimy with brown drips, and standing dirty water in one blocked sink. Really grim. Laminated coronavirus instructions don’t make this ok. pic.twitter.com/Wqxx6TOBjk
— Lucy Reed (@Familoo) March 9, 2020
Anonymous bar blogger The Secret Barrister shared an account of a court they were at recently:
A court I was at last week had puddles of toilet fluid all over the floor, spreading across all cubicles. The soap dispenser was empty all week. The water was icy cold.
Given that we spend our days in tiny court conference rooms with multiple strangers, this is a disgrace.
— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) March 9, 2020
Meanwhile, Plymouth Crown and County courts complex had to be deep cleaned after a defendant turned up to trial with flu-like symptoms, the Plymouth Herald reported on Tuesday.
The Supreme Court announced this morning it has decided to implement a number of temporary restrictions relating to visitor access. You can read the statement in full here.