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MA warns of impact of Covid-19 'pingdemic' on justice

Concern that current trends could lead to court closures

23 July 2021
MA warns of impact of Covid-19 'pingdemic' on justice

The MA’s chief executive, Tom Franklin, has spoken to the inewspaper about the effect of Covid-19 infections and isolation notifications on the magistrates' courts.

He warned that a ‘chronic’ long-term shortage of magistrates is being exacerbated by key justice system personnel being ‘pinged’ to self-isolate by the NHS Covid-19 app, resulting in the closure of some courtrooms. He particularly cited a shortage of legal advisers who have been notified to self-isolate, but also referenced probation officers being unavailable. He explained that ‘everyone is working at full stretch’, and that in many instances there were no personnel available to stand in.

While it is sometimes possible for those who receive such notifications to work from home, Tom added that some courts are not yet equipped with full remote video technology, and that even then there is a preference for legal advisers and magistrates to be physically in court for most criminal cases.

These current problems are part of a wider, long-term picture. Tom explained that there is ‘absolutely no slack in the system – working with minimal staff and magistrates just doesn’t provide a sufficiently robust system to get over these problems without impact on the service we provide’.

The MA estimates that more than 3,000 more volunteer magistrates are needed to run the courts efficiently.

Read the full article here.

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