Lancashire's courts will continue to sit during Tier 4 restrictions as minister says 'justice is essential'
Courts in Tier 4 areas of England, including Lancashire, will continue to operate despite increased restrictions.
Preston Magistrates’ Court operated over Christmas and Preston Crown Court will resume sitting on Monday after a brief break.
Around 1,219,800 residents in Lancashire were put into Tier 4 on Thursday after the discovery of a new variant of coronavirus, which appears to be more transmissible.
HM Courts & Tribunals Service confirmed buildings in affected areas continue to operate within Covid-secure guidelines, and there are no plans to change scheduled hearings.
Under the restrictions, people involved in keeping the justice system running, including those called up for jury service, are permitted to attend court and travel. Social distancing, frequent cleaning and screens were brought in during the pandemic to ensure trials could go ahead at Preston Crown Court.
Court and tribunal users must wear face coverings in public and communal area.
The county’s courts are currently battling through a backlog of around 12,945 outstanding court cases in the magistrates courts and around 1,249 at the crown courts - figures as of the end of September.
Figures relating to the period between October and December 2020 are due to be published in March.
The MoJ is operating 18 Nightingale courts – including one in the former magistrates’ court in Fleetwood – to try to ease the backlog which has built up.
At the weekend Justice minister, Chris Philp MP, tweeted: ‘Courts & Tribunals will continue to operate as they have in recent months, including in Tier 4 areas. Jury trials will continue. This is because justice is an essential service and tens of millions of £s have been spent in the last few months making courts & tribunals Covid safe.’