COVID-19: Crown Prosecution Service planning and preparation

UPDATE: Tuesday 24 March 2020

Following the Prime Minister’s statement last night announcing further measures necessary to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak, the CPS has discussed with colleagues in HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) which types of cases should be considered urgent, and therefore should proceed.

The Prime Minister was clear that further restrictions on movement and personal contact are now vital to slow the spread of the disease. Following that clear direction, we have set out the following position, and have notified HMCTS of our intention to proceed on this basis at this time.

In the Crown Court, we will continue to support the 35 trials which are currently ongoing, on the basis that the Senior Presiding Judge’s guidance on a safe environment is observed.

In the Magistrates’ courts, we will support the following types of case only, which constitute urgent work:

  1. Overnight custody cases in the Magistrates’ Court;
  2. Cases with CTLs that need to be extended;
  3. Breach of court bail; and
  4. Interim custody appearances and bail applications.

As many of those hearings as possible should be carried out by remote links.

This is a very fast moving situation, and we will continue to review the impact of these measures, and how they are operating in practice, with criminal justice partners. Further refinement to our position may be made in the coming days.

We continue to take active steps to reduce physical appearances at court to an absolute minimum, with public safety uppermost in our minds.

Separately, we are well aware of the financial difficulties being faced by many working in the criminal justice system as a direct result of this emergency. In recognition of the challenges, in the coming days, the CPS will bring forward proposals for revised payment arrangements for work done prior to the conclusion of a case.

Thank you for your continued support.

UPDATE: Monday 23 March 2020

This morning, further changes to court operations have been announced by the Lord Chief Justice.

Crown Court

  • No jury trials or other physical hearings are to take place unless it is safe for them to do so. The Lord Chief Justice’s announcement included:
  • This morning no new trials are to start
  • All hearings in the Crown Court that can lawfully take place remotely should do so and other hearings not involving a jury should continue if suitable arrangements can be made to ensure distancing
  • Efforts to bring existing jury trials to a conclusion should continue. Social distancing in accordance with PHE guidelines must be in place at all times and at all places within the court building
  • If it is necessary to adjourn trials already underway for a short period to put those safety measures in place, this must be done.

Magistrates

The Lord Chief Justice has set out that the same considerations apply to magistrates’ courts. He highlighted that magistrates’ courts will need to continue to deal with urgent work but that all hearings that can lawfully take place remotely should do so if the facilities exist.

This morning, all advocates instructed by the CPS should be guided by the principles set out by the Lord Chief Justice. If you have concerns about whether it is safe for a hearing to go ahead, or whether cases listed are urgent, please raise these with the legal advisor or judge/magistrate.

CPS senior leaders are this morning urgently discussing all court arrangements with HMCTS and other partners, to ensure there is a safe environment for CPS staff, those we instruct to prosecute on our behalf and the public. Further updates will be provided as soon as possible. This includes an assessment of what work it is necessary for the magistrates’ courts to continue to cover.

The Government’s approach is data-led and informed by medical science.

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) maintains primary operational leadership of the medical information and response to the virus.

Read the latest information about the Government’s response and plans.

Public health advice

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a virus called coronavirus.

Follow the latest information about prevention, treatment and travel.

Information about courts and tribunals

HM Courts & Tribunal Service is responsible for the operational running of courts and tribunals. If there are wider changes to the operational running of the courts this will be communicated in the first instance on HMCTS digital channels: