The Criminal Justice system during COVID-19
As the COVID-19 lockdown continues, our criminal defence team provides an update in relation to the Criminal Justice system and the action being taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19:
Only urgent court hearings are proceeding at this time. A hearing is only classed as urgent if our client is in prison awaiting either trial or sentence. If you are not in custody, keep an eye on the post as the courts will be writing to everyone who has a hearing in the next few weeks to advise them if their hearing has been postponed. If for any reason you are required to attend court, you should notify the court or your solicitor as soon as possible if you are self-isolating and unable to attend.
Magistrates’ Courts in the region continue to sit, although the only cases being heard involve defendants produced from police custody where they have been refused police bail, and custody cases where the defendant is in prison and is usually produced via a video link.
The Magistrates’ Courts in our region are continuing to hear police applications for Domestic Violence Prevention Orders.
The Crown Court building on Newcastle Quayside is closed to the public but is continuing to function via remote video hearings. The court has been removing from the list all sentence hearings where the defendant is NOT in custody. If you are on bail and awaiting sentence your hearing, if it is in the next week or so, is likely to be adjourned. Currently, there is no indication when the Crown Court will expect defendants on bail to physically appear in court.
Many plea hearings (PTPH) are proceeding but with only the barristers appearing via video link. No defendants are being expected to attend plea hearing in person at this stage. In order to progress your plea hearing, we are likely to have to consult with you over the telephone to obtain your instructions so that you can have an effective plea hearing.
Currently there are no Jury trials being held. This is a situation that remains under constant review with various proposals apparently being considered which would allow Jury trials to re-start, but at the current time, we have no idea when that might be.
If you have any questions about an upcoming hearing, please get in touch for further advice.
Police Station Interviews
Only the most urgent Police Station Interviews should be proceeding. Interviews will almost always be necessary if someone has been arrested, however, all voluntary attender interviews are likely to be postponed until the lockdown is relaxed.
Almost all solicitors are attending interviews remotely via telephone, to do all we can to limit the spread of the virus. You will receive the same comprehensive and thorough advice in private via telephone and you will continue to have a solicitor present via telephone in the interview to represent you robustly. This process has been agreed between defence solicitors and the police to avoid unnecessary human traffic in the police station at this time.
A solicitor will, however, attend if the offence is so serious that remote attendance is not possible.
If you have any questions about an upcoming police interview, or are worried that your court hearing may not be going ahead as listed, please contact us on 0191 232 9547 for assistance from our team of expert defence solicitors.