Covid-19 and its Impact on the Magistrates Court

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Covid-19 and its Impact on the Magistrates Court

Partner and Supervising Solicitor Liz Ridgeway works in the Magistrates Court on a daily basis. In this article she discusses the Corona Virus and its’s impact and effect is working in the Magistrates Court.

Are magistrates courts open during the Pandemic?

Yes, magistrates courts in Greater Manchester are open but they are dealing with cases differently depending on the type of case. Custody cases are being dealt with in court in the normal way, but the procedure for cases where the defendant is on bail has changed. Some courts are offering timed slots where people are expected to attend court half an hour before their hearing time. Like all timed appointments there can still be delays, the general rule of thumb is that the later the timed appointment the more likely there could be a delay from the earlier appointments. If you attend court later than the time of your allocated hearing slot then you might find that the court has already issued a warrant for your arrest. I’ve also recently had cases brought forward when the court hasn’t been busy, so make sure that your solicitor has your up to date contact details.

Why am I getting letters from the court with different court dates?

Sometimes the courts are adjourning cases administratively (in your absence) to holding dates many months in the future, then  at quite short notice they are bringing cases forward. This is done entirely to suit the courts diaries so it’s again it is important to keep in touch with your solicitor particularly if you can’t attend the new dates as we can liaise with court listings and we may be able to get you a more convenient hearing date.

My first appearance was in one court but my Trial is to take place at an entirely different court many miles away

Each court in Greater Manchester now has access to diaries from other courts in the county so it could be the case that your first appearance is in one court but subsequent hearings take place at another. This is because some courts are busier than others and moving the case to a different court could mean that your case is dealt with much quicker. Courts usually try and list hearings at the court which is nearest to where you live but this is not always possible. So read your court letters carefully to make sure that you turn up at the right court. And ensure that you inform your solicitor when you receive a letter to attend. Just because they write to you doesn’t mean that they have informed your solicitor. If your case is to be moved then your solicitor can speak to the court on your behalf to try to get the most convenient location for you.

What happens if I get Covid symptoms, have a positive test or are in a high risk shielding group?

First, you must call your solicitor as soon as possible in order to obtain individual advice depending on your unique situation. Try and get as much information to your solicitor as possible as soon as possible i.e.. copies of letters telling you to shield, details of Covid testing appointments, text messages with Positive covid test results or emails from schools telling  your children to isolate. The more evidence you give your solicitor the more likely it is that your case can be adjourned to a new date in your absence. Courts do not want people with Covid or Covid symptoms to enter the buildings but if you just fail to attend court and the court doesn’t know why then there is a significant risk that the Court issues a warrant may be issued for your arrest.

A friend or family member is in court, can I go to court to support them ?

Each court centre is different and has a different capacity for social distancing. Most courts will allow one family member or friend into the court building. For timed appointments the friend or family member will only be allowed  into court at the relevant time. Under 18’s appearing in the youth court are required to attend with an adult. If you do have any questions about being supported at court, then speak to your solicitor who can give you advice on this and speak to the court on your behalf particularly if someone has mental health or other special needs.

Do I need a solicitor?

In a word, yes . If you are appearing in the Magistrates Court then it is essential that you seek legal advice at an early stage. If you do need any assistance then please contact us.

We are here to speak up for you so give us a call on. We are still open and functioning fully throughout the Pandemic and as always we have a 24 hour call out team for police station advice and assistance.





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