Note from HHJ Shanks
I am circulating this note to all judges ( lay and otherwise ) across Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk and also to local chambers and local practitioners. I hope that I can also ensure that this note extend beyond those who are local.
We are all working in circumstances which are very different, difficult and stressful.
I know that both judges and advocates have vulnerabilities and are challenged at these times. The message has to be that we need to do all we can to ensure the safety of advocates and those they represent together with the experts involved – FCAs, guardians, social workers and others.
All judges must follow the Lord Chief’s Guidance and do everything possible to reduce the footfall in the court buildings. We must do all we can to limit the need for persons to attend at court unless it is absolutely necessary . We must depend upon an advocate who tells us that he/she needs to attend remotely, albeit that the client is to be physically present, has express instructions that the client is content and we must depend upon that advocate to ensure that he/she has secured full instructions before the commencement of the hearing. Naturally, during the hearing that advocate may need to secure instructions and a reasonable opportunity must be afforded within the timeframe of the hearing.
I suggest that we should not be trespassing upon the personal lives of advocates or others to explain their vulnerabilities or justify the need to attend remotely. After all, they are professionals and we should be prepared to accept an assertion that their circumstances demand a need to attend remotely.
You will have all seen the updated guidance regarding wearing masks/face covering in court. I think we should permit an advocate to continue to be masked if they wish so long as they can be clearly heard.
I know that those advocates who are vulnerable and not able to come to court at this time look forward, like the rest of us, to returning to court and normality when it is safe.
We all need to work together in a way which is safe and enables us to get through the work in a timely way. With the co-operation of all we CAN do it!
DATED 17 January 2022
HHJ SHANKS – DFJ NORFOLK, ESSEX AND SUFFOLK