Jury cabins being considered at Sheffield Crown Court to ensure safer Covid-19 social-distancing during trials
Sheffield Crown Court is considering introducing portable cabins for trial juries in a determined effort to ensure justice continues safely during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Recorder of Sheffield, Judge Jeremy Richardson QC, has confirmed the provision of jury retiring space to comply with the health guidance and rules relating to the Covid-19 pandemic which are under daily consideration.
He told The Star: “This may involve mobile units or other solutions which have recently become available. We shall be upscaling jury trials from September 14 and gradually increasing capacity from October 4 including cases involving several defendants in one trial.
"This is major task in the circumstances of the current crisis. It is a considerable challenge to do this. Both court staff and judges have met that challenge.”
HM Courts and Tribunals Service stated site surveys have been carried out at 35 sites and portable cabins have been installed at Bradford Combined Court and installation will begin at Leeds Combined Court immenently.
Portable cabins will temporarily provide extra space for support facilities such as waiting rooms and retiring rooms, but will not be used as courtrooms.
Plans are underway to support Middlesbrough Crown Court, Grimsby Crown Court, Kingston-upon-Hull Combined Court and Preston Combined Court with portable cabins.
AN HMCTS spokesman said: “Portable cabins are being installed at several courts as part of work to keep the justice system running safely.
“As well as boosting capacity, we’ve increased remote hearings, prioritised urgent cases and opened the first Nightingale Courts.”
Priority court buildings remained open from March 30 with strict safety and remote hearing protocols across England and Wales including Sheffield Crown Court while jury trials were suspended on March 23.
However, trials resumed in some courts from May 18 and in Sheffield from June 29.
Courts in England and Wales face an estimated backlog of over half-a-million criminal cases, according to the Ministry of Justice.
Judge Richardson thanked court staff for their enormous efforts and paid tribute to the legal profession in Sheffield and to those who serve Sheffield for their cooperation.
He said: “This collaborative approach has been pivotal to the progress which has been made and the significant upscaling of trial work in the near future.”