Suffolk Magistrates’ Court given ‘priority’ status to remain open

PUBLISHED: 12:36 27 March 2020 | UPDATED: 12:36 27 March 2020

Suffolk Magistrates' Court is among less than half of courts and tribunal building to be kept open to the public from Monday  Picture: GREGG BROWN

Suffolk Magistrates' Court is among less than half of courts and tribunal building to be kept open to the public from Monday Picture: GREGG BROWN

Suffolk Magistrates’ Court will be one of 158 priority court and tribunal buildings to remain open for essential face-to-face hearings from Monday.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) announced the work of courts and tribunals will be consolidated into fewer buildings to maintain safety.

A network of priority courts, including Suffolk Magistrate’s Court, in Ipswich, will remain open during the coronavirus pandemic to make sure the justice system continues effectively.

The 158 priority buildings represents 43% of the 371 crown, magistrates and family courts across England and Wales.

Media and members of the public will be able to attend priority court hearings in person, if safe to do so in line with Public Health England guidance.

Ipswich Crown Court and Ipswich County Court will be among 124 court and tribunal buildings to close to the public but remain open to HMCTS staff, the judiciary and other agencies.

These ‘staffed courts’ will support video and telephone hearings and progress cases without hearings. All remaining courts and tribunals will close temporarily from Monday for as long as necessary to comply with government and public health advice.

Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland said: “We are facing an unprecedented challenge and the government’s absolute priority is to save lives and protect the NHS.

“With each part of our justice system – from police to probation – dependent on one another, it is vital that we keep our courts running.

“This will only be done while ensuring the safety of the public, judges, legal professionals, staff and all those attending hearings and I’d like to thank everyone for their extraordinary efforts so far.”

The Lord Chief Justice said: “An extraordinary amount of hard work has gone into keeping our justice system functioning.

“Technology is being used creatively to ensure that many cases can continue. Not everything can be dealt with remotely and so we need to maintain functioning courts.

“These temporary adjustments to how we use the court estate will help ensure that we can continue to deal with work appropriately in all jurisdictions whilst safeguarding the well-being of all those who work in and visit the courts.”

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