WITH the UK seemingly moving to a state of the total lockdown, the wheels of justice are also beginning to grind to a halt, with news today that no new jury trials will be taking place until suitable safety precautions can be put in place.

Lord Burnett, the Lord Chief Justice, said that events have continued to move at "great speed" and because the clear message from Government was to take all precautions to avoid unnecessary contact, jury trials would not be taking place as it is simply not possible for them to be held remotely.

He said: "I indicated during the course of last week that we would keep them under review. As the Prime Minister has been telling the country, the spread of COVID- 19 has continued to accelerate.

"We have put in place arrangements to use telephone, video and other technology to continue as many hearings as possible remotely. We will make best possible use of the equipment currently available; HMCTS is working round the clock to update and add to that.

"I have decided that we need to pause jury trials for a short time to enable appropriate precautions to be put in place."

As of Monday, March 23, no new trials are set to start and any jurors who have been summoned are being contacted to ask them to remain at home and to contact the court they are due to attend. They will only be asked to come in for trials where specific arrangements with regards safety have been put in place.

The new guidance does not affect already existing trials, with efforts to bring these to conclusion continuing, with social distancing being put in place within all court buildings. However, if safety cannot be guaranteed, trials already underway may well be adjourned for a short period while such issues are rectified.

The updated guidance also applies to cases being heard before Magistrates, which will continue to deal with urgent work and any hearings that can take place remotely will be, if the facilities exist to allow such.