By 2020 Tricia Thomas
HM Courts were suspended during the lockdown and since 1st July have been opening up once they can operate safely. On Friday, by invitation of the Chair of Hereford Bench, Mrs Libhin Bromley, I visited the Hereford Justice Centre to spend the day at the magistrates’ court.
This normally busy and vibrant building has restricted access at the moment with those involved in cases being called at set times. The HMCTS (Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service) has had to adapt processes to ensure that all concerned are able to safely work at, or attend court.
Spacing for social distancing meant there were two magistrates instead of the usual 3 on the bench. Other HMCTS staff, the CPS prosecutor, defence lawyers were seated in separate rows, as were defendants. The capacity of the visitors’ gallery, where I sat, was reduced down to just 3 places. A cleaning regime between each hearing ensured that the court room was safe and ready for the next case to be heard.
During the day the court handled cases known as 'summary offences', with motoring offences featuring highly, petty theft and an assault taking up the day. The court’s legal advisor for the day, clearly communicated to all parties the wording for each case, offering guidance to the JP’s if required and explanation to defendants. This was particularly useful to me as I was able to keep up! The Probation Service were on hand to support in some of the cases and it was interesting to hear of rehabilitation alternatives to imprisonment.
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