20 March, 2020
Despite current assertions that Courts are continuing to operate normally so far as possible, a family Judge imposed emergency measures in Berkshire and Oxfordshire on 17 March 2020 with a view to reducing the number of people required to attend hearings.
HHJ Moradifar declared that all suitable hearings should be conducted via video link, Skype or telephone and that physical presence in court buildings should be kept to a minimum. He noted that witnesses should give their evidence remotely where possible and if coming to Court is unavoidable, attendance should be limited to advocates, provided that they can readily contact their clients. These measures are to continue until further notice for all family hearings in Berkshire in Oxfordshire and are reflective of Government advice that people should be spending as little time as possible in the public in order to prevent the spreading of the Covid-19.
HMCTS have advised that they are working towards having a higher proportion of hearings being heard via video or audio link. Combined with decisions such as HHJ Moradifar's, courthouses across England & Wales are likely to become quieter over the following days and weeks. As such, the buildings should be less crowded for those hearings which must go ahead in person and this should allow for those in attendance to maintain a safe distance between one another and practice social distancing as much as possible.
These are unprecedented times and seemingly surprising decisions from Judges who are considering the impact Covid-19 will have on delivering justice as 'normal', may soon become the norm.