Debut Social Distancing Trial hailed a success by St Philips member

St Philips Chambers reception
Written by:

James Withers


Conducting trials in the new climate posed by Covid 19 is nothing to worry about, but needs meticulous preparation, says a member of St Philips, who has defended in one of the first Social Distancing Measures trial in the country.

He said the trial, which took place at Warwick Crown Court last week was a great achievement.

“It ran very smoothly, which was a clear testament to the hard work put in by the Court Staff in ensuring every participant’s safety,” he said.

“However, I cannot emphasise enough for thorough case preparation at every stage and that any trial documents and jury bundles must be with the court 72 hours before any trial starts for quarantine purposes,” he added.

The new landscape included clear one way route markings, clear signs and marks setting out the 2m rule, as well as the provision of plenty of hand sanitizer at key points within the building.  Other measures included limiting the robing room to eight people at a time, and conference rooms to two people at a time.

Prior to the trial commencing, he had attended a meeting the week before to observe and discuss the measures that were in place for the jury, advocates, defendants and other Court users.

“I was very impressed and completely assured that all that could be done to maximise the safety of all concerned had been done,” he added.  “ I also saw and participated in a rehearsal of the process escorting juries to and from the courtroom, as well as observing and discussing the jury facilities for retirement.

“It was abundantly clear that juries had the best possible socially distanced facilities in the building that would not impinge upon the ability to deliberate, which was vitally important.”

The case had been carefully selected to be the first, and to test the extensive and carefully planned measure that HHJ Lockhart QC and the staff at Warwick had implemented, to ensure trials can start where the defendant was on bail.

Of the case itself, it was a single punch brain damage case where the defendant was unanimously acquitted.

“It’s a great relief to see that we can still do our work without too great a disruption,” he added. “It’s very impressive that so many have risen to the challenge and created such a safe environment. Just remember to bring your own bottled water!”

One of the member’s other trials will be the second case to be heard at Warwick, where a man  is accused of a campaign of rape upon multiple victims in the Coventry area.

Again, this trial was again especially chosen to test the measures implemented in order that more complex cases, involving multiple victims, where the defendant is in custody and requires an interpreter.

Read more on this story in the Law Society Gazette.

Written by James Withers