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The Covid-19 pandemic is raising lots of questions for those in need of help from criminal solicitors in London, including questions about attending court or during the Coronavirus lockdown.
If you are due to attend court for any reason but find yourself unable to do so due to developments with the coronavirus, then there are some important steps you must take in order to minimise or avoid any potentially negative consequences of non-attendance.
In this blog, we explore how the courts and justice systems have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and what you can do if you are unable to attend court due to the current pandemic.
IMPORTANT: Please note that failure to attend court without valid reason and not following the correct process may be considered a criminal offence which can result in a financial penalty or imprisonment. ALWAYS seek the advice of an authorised legal representative such as our team of 24/7 criminal solicitors and keep the courts informed in relation to your ability to attend. Ashmans Solicitors continue to offer a free, no-obligation initial enquiry service for those looking for further assistance.
What impact as the Coronavirus has on the judicial system in the UK?
In our role as 24/7 Criminal Lawyers, we are experiencing the effects of Covid-19 first hand.
The impact of the coronavirus is still ongoing which means it is subject to change on a daily, hourly and even case-by-case basis. The last official update from the UK Government to UK courts and tribunals (updated 29 March 2020) is that every effort is being made to ensure that the courts continue functioning as best as possible during these challenging times.
However, this does not quite mean that it is business as usual. Courts and tribunals are said to be ‘focusing on priority cases, changing working practices and introducing new procedures to minimise risks to the judiciary, staff and all those who use our courts and tribunals.’
As of March 30, there will be 157 open courts for hearings, 124 staff courts (where judges will continue to work but will not be open to the public) and 89 courts will be closed temporarily.
Some court proceedings may make use of technology such as telephone and video conferencing to allow proceedings to continue but many people may still have questions about whether they should attend court in light of the Covid-19 lockdown laws initiated by the UK Government in March 2020.
Should you attend court during the coronavirus lockdown?
The short answer is YES unless you have a valid reason not to do so.
Current emergency rules from the government mean that all UK residents should remain in their homes and limit social contact wherever possible. These laws mean that people must only leave their homes if they have a valid reason to do so, such as shopping for essentials or caring for vulnerable persons.
It is important to note that valid reasons for leaving the home also include ‘to fulfil a legal obligation, including attending court or satisfying bail conditions, or to participate in legal proceedings.’
This means that unless you have received confirmation from the court that you are no longer expected to attend then you should make every effort to attend at the appointed time.
However, these rules MAY not apply in the event that:
- You are now exhibiting symptoms that may indicate you are infected by the coronavirus as defined by the NHS guidelines, or;
- Someone you live with is exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, or;
- You fall into a high-risk category including (but not limited to) having pre-existing lung complications such as COPD.
If any of the above is true, it may be that the courts will wish that you remain at home and self-isolate, however, there are steps that you must take.
What to do if you can’t attend court due to the coronavirus
If you believe that you may be exhibiting coronavirus symptoms or live with somebody who is (and therefore have an increased chance of having the virus), or if you are at particular risk due to health issues or age making you fall into the high-risk categories as outlined by the NHS, it may be that you are not considered fit to attend court and you must take several steps to ensure that you inform the necessary people and avoid further charges of failure to attend court.
Golden Rules: Open a dialogue and talk to those involved
Providing there is sufficient time before your court date then the first step is to make your lawyer aware of the situation if you have one.
Not appearing when you are due in court can be a serious offence, and your lawyer will likely wish to provide you with guidance on what to do next.
The next and most crucial step is to inform the court itself. Most courts are contactable either via telephone or email, often both and their contact details are available both online and on any correspondence you have received from them.
You MUST ensure that you inform the court that you are not able to attend due to coronavirus IN THE FIRST INSTANCE – that is to say, you should not wait around for a few days and then call them, but instead inform them of any valid reason you will not attend at the first available opportunity.
You must provide the court with as much notice as possible that you are unable to attend so that they may make alternative arrangements as needed.
You may also wish to get legal advice if you have not already done so, such as from a firm 24/7 criminal lawyers like Ashmans Solicitors.
As social distancing continues, we are able to offer the following alternatives to face-to-face meetings but should stress we may still arrange to meet you in very urgent situations. This could change at any time subject to Government guidelines.
- Telephone – Existing clients can call on the usual office number and be transferred to the relevant legal professional. If you know the mobile number of the person you need to speak to then you may contact them directly. New Enquiries 0333 009 6275
- Email – You can contact our team directly by firstname.lastname@example.org the relevant department will be in touch ASAP.
- Online video platforms – If you have access to a computer or phone, we can be contacted via Skype. Your contact will tell you how.
Ashmans Solicitors have long been an established part of the community, and we are reachable day or night, 24/7.
We have offices in: Central London and East London, Dewsbury, Sheffield, Huddersfield and Leeds. Please see the Contact Us page for exact location details. Feel free to drop us a line, give us a call