Jury Trials to Resume in England and Wales
18 May will see the first jury trials held in the UK since the government’s COVID-19 lockdown measures were first implemented.
The lord chief justice announced on Monday that jury trials will recommence in the UK from 18 May onwards, with social distancing measures in place as “special arrangements to maintain the safety of all participants and the jury”.
These arrangements will see proceedings spread between two courtrooms to enable journalists, the public and parties to the trial to maintain safe distance.
Jurors will also sit between 11am and 3pm – reducing their hours and enabling them to avoid the daily rush hour.
The new trials “will be conducted under the same legal standards and procedures as before the COVID-19 emergency, with 12 jurors”, a shift in policy from both lord chief justice Baron Burnett of Maldon and the justice secretary, who previously gave their support to cutting juries down to 7 members.
“It is important that the administration of justice continues to function whenever it is possible in an environment which is consistent with the safety of all those involved,” Baron Burnett said in a statement. He also noted that the first courts where fresh juries could be sworn in would include the Old Bailey in London and Cardiff Crown Court.
Justice secretary Robert Buckland added: “I am extremely grateful to the lord chief justice, the wider judiciary, legal professions, court staff and colleagues from across the criminal justice system for their determination and resolve in the discussions to get us to this point.”
This news follows Boris Johnson’s announcement that UK coronavirus laws will be updated on Wednesday, making unnecessary public gatherings and leaving home “without reasonable excuse” illegal. Court proceedings will be exempt from this rule.