Coronavirus: Jury trials halted in England and Wales

All jury trials in England and Wales have been put on hold to halt the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

Courts have been told to use "considerable imagination and flexibility" to work up plans during the coronavirus pandemic for every person to be two metres apart from each other before trials can begin again.

Lord Burnett, head of the judiciary in England and Wales, said social distancing is a "particular concern" to address as the government prepares to rush through emergency laws to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

So far, 281 people who had coronavirus have died and 5,683 people have tested positive for the virus, according to the Department of Health.

As all sectors of society prepare for upheaval, Lord Burnett announced no new jury trials will start until a judge rules it is safe to do so.

Jurors summoned for duty on Monday will be told to remain at home and contact the court they are due to attend.

They will only be asked to come in for trials where specific arrangements to ensure safety have been put in place.

Some will be put on new trials starting as soon as Monday afternoon and any hearings that can lawfully take place remotely will be.

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In magistrates' courts, Lord Burnett said "all hearings that can lawfully take place remotely should do so if the facilities exist".

And in civil and family courts, hearings should be held remotely and any in-person ones should only go ahead if "suitable arrangements can be made to ensure safety".

Susan Acland-Hood, chief executive officer of HMCTS (Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service), has said at the weekend that jurors were on the government's list of key workers.

But a number of members of the legal profession have said the courts should not keep running amid the crisis.

Joanna Hardy, a criminal barrister at Red Lion Chambers, tweeted: "Put simply - jury trials involve people coming to court.

"And, for the moment, the assembly of groups of people should be stopped because people are dying.

"That isn't a value comparison between justice and death. It's a pause. To take stock. To work out what we do next."

Augusta Itua, who works with legal charity Just for Kids Law, said on Twitter that "closing courts is a public health imperative".