1.This is one of four reports we are publishing on the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on prisons, probation, courts and legal systems in England and Wales. It covers the period 16 March to 30 June 2020. Access to justice is one of our priorities, and in this report, we look at the effect of coronavirus on providers of legal services given the potential for reduction in access to justice should some providers cease to be able to operate.
2.The coronavirus pandemic is an extraordinary event. From mid-March, the Government responded by taking steps to control spread of the disease. These have unavoidably had an impact on all areas of public and private life including the justice system. On 24 March, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, told us that “the overall policy objective I have is to maintain the system of justice and law and order in our country, even in the teeth of this unprecedented threat.”
3.HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Judiciary worked together in response to the emergency to reduce social interactions at courts by:
4.These measures have had significant impacts on the legal professions. There have been practical challenges to do with the sudden increase in use of technology and in relation to staying safe when attending the courts that have remained open; and there have been financial implications as levels of work have reduced dramatically.
5.We thank the organisations and witnesses that provided evidence to us on the impact of Coronavirus and pay tribute to all those working in the courts and legal professions for their professionalism, adaptability and hard work to keep the justice system in England and Wales going.
1 By legal services providers we mean solicitors firms, self-employed barristers, and Law Centres and other not-for-profit organisations providing legal advice and representation.
2 taken on the 24 March 2020, HC (2019–21) 225, Q5
3 HMCTS, , July 2020, p 3. More information about the impact of Coronavirus on the courts can be found in our report Coronavirus (COVID-19): The impact on the Courts in England and Wales (forthcoming).
Published: 3 August 2020