Suffolk's criminal courts to stay open during lockdown

GV - Ipswich Crown Court

Jury trials at Ipswich Crown Court will continue during the latest lockdown

Courts in Suffolk will stay open and jury trials will continue during the latest coronavirus lockdown - to the relief of the county's police and crime commissioner.

Tim Passmore said any further closures to the county's criminal courts would exacerbate the backlog of cases at both Ipswich Crown Court and Suffolk Magistrates' Court. 

The position on courts is in contrast to the first Covid-19 lockdown in March, where nearly half of all courts in the country were closed, and jury trials paused, to minimise social interaction between users. 

Jury trials at Ipswich Crown Court did not resume until July 20. 

Poluce and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore, said further economic impacts could have knock-on effects like unemployment...

Suffolk's police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said he was 'relieved" courts were still running - Credit: Archant

Mr Passmore said keeping the courts running was "good news" for the county.

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“I am very pleased and relieved to learn all criminal courts in Suffolk are staying open," he said. 

“There is already a considerable backlog of cases at our crown and magistrates’ court. Any further closures would delay hearings even more which would be very unhelpful to the victims which is where the focus of the criminal justice system must be.

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“These delays caused by the pandemic have already resulted in a considerable extra workload for the police keeping in contact with defendants, victims and witnesses so keeping the courts running is good news for all of us in Suffolk.”

Ipswich Magistrates Court on Elm Street

Suffolk Magistrates' Court in Ipswich - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

Speaking on Tuesday, the Lord Chief Justice said footfall in court buildings should be "kept to a minimum". 

Lord Burnett of Maldon said that all those attending court must abide by Covid-19 guidance and that judges and magistrates "will have a role in making sure this happens". 

"In all our jurisdictions work, including jury trials, will continue as it did during the lockdown in November and, after initial hiccups, in the earlier and longer lockdown," he said. 

"The significant increase in the incidence of COVID-19 coupled with the increase in rates of transmission makes it all the more important that footfall in our courts is kept to a minimum.

"No participant in legal proceedings should be required by a judge or magistrate to attend court unless it is necessary in the interests of justice."

He added: "The next few weeks will present difficulties in all jurisdictions.

"But as before judges, magistrates, staff, the legal profession and others involved in the system will meet them and ensure that the administration of justice continues to function in the public interest."

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