Source: British Parliament News
01 May 2020
The Justice Committee investigates the unprecedented impact of Covid-19 on the work of the courts and the legal professions.
Monday 4 May 2020, this session will be held online
Panel 1 – The effect of Covid-19 on the courts
Ellie Cumbo, Head of Public Law, The Law Society
John Bache, National Chair, The Magistrates’ Association
Panel 2 – The effect of Covid-19 on the legal professions and the not-for-profit sector
Amanda Pinto QC, Chair, The Bar Council
Simon Davis, President, The Law Society
Bill Waddington, Criminal Law Solicitors Association
Elspeth Thomson, Co-Chair, Resolution (a family justice professionals’ group)
Panel 3 – The response of the Ministry of Justice
Chris Philp, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice
Alex Chalk, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice
Susan Acland-Hood, Chief Executive of HM Court and Tribunal Service
Jelena Lentzos, Deputy Director, Legal Aid Policy, Ministry of Justice
Some barristers have told the Bar Council that the system of justice has “ground to a halt” as social distancing and illness have caused court closures and delays.
Meanwhile, around half of solicitors’ firms that responded to a Law Society survey have said they are likely to make redundancies or cancel hiring plans because of reduced work – with most small practices adding that they feared they might not survive at all.
The Committee will take evidence from legal professionals and the Ministry of Justice about a situation where, even before the pandemic, there was a backlog of over 37,000 Crown Court cases and delays of many months in Family Court cases getting under way.
Social distancing has further exacerbated this situation with some courts being closed and others being re-configured to make them safe during the pandemic. Jury trials have been delayed.
The use of remote video hearings has increased, partly in response to the crisis, but this has presented another set of challenges – including, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, “a heightened risk that disabled people may not be able to realise their right to a fair trial”.
Difficulties have also been encountered with making remote hearings open to the public and the press.
During the Committee evidence session questions will be asked of legal professionals and the government about the safety of holding trials during the pandemic, what the priorities should now be and to what extent the system needs financial support.
Image: Ministry of Justice