Jurors get their own courtroom as trials resume after four months

PUBLISHED: 13:04 06 July 2020 | UPDATED: 13:04 06 July 2020

Norwich Crown Court. Adrian Judd.

Norwich Crown Court. Adrian Judd.

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Jury trials have resumed at Norwich Crown Court with special safety arrangements in place for court staff and jurors almost three months after being put on hold amid coronavirus lockdown measures.

All new jury trials were suspended on March 23 across the UK due to the Covid-19 pandemic although some sentencing still went ahead at Norwich during lockdown, which were conducted remotely using CCTV technology.

Since then, work has been carried out to explore options for conducting trials in a safe manner and trials finally restarted on Monday, in Norwich, with arrangements to allow social distancing to be maintained.

The measures include providing a courtroom with CCTV to enable journalists and others to watch proceedings, and another courtroom set aside for the 12 jurors hearing the trial.

Court staff also are ensuring entrances and exits are carefully supervised with safe routes for visitors marked throughout the building, as well as all necessary cleaning in place in the building.

Hand sanitiser is also available in each courtroom as well as the main entrance to the building.

At the start of the first trial to get underway since lockdown, which is a rape trial, Judge Katharine Moore told jurors that the Covid-19 pandemic had meant changes to how everyone carried on with their daily lives and work and said: “As we emerge from lockdown trials have resumed where it safe to do so.”

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She said that safety measures were in place so that a socially distanced jury trial could go ahead and said there was also a team of cleaners working in the building.

She told the jury: ““It is the first time I have had a socially distanced jury.”

Cases awaiting trial are already in a backlog because of the lockdown.

By the end of 2019, the number of outstanding cases had reached 37,434 official figures show.

Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett has expressed that he wants all courts to be fully used once it is safe to do so to deal with the backlog.

He said: “It is important that the administration of justice continues to function whenever it is possible in an environment which is consistent with the safety of all those involved.

“Jury service is an essential part of criminal justice and jurors perform a vital duty.”

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