This blog is directed to those who have upcoming court hearings in the Tribunal during the Covid-19 virus outbreak. The Immigration and Asylum chamber has issued guidance to those who have upcoming immigration hearings.
Business as usual?
As of 16 March 2020, the business in courts and tribunals continues as normal. If there are changes to individual hearings then these will be communicated individually. The courts and Tribunal service state that those that have a high temperature or a continuous cough stay at home for seven days. Those that do not have a possible or confirmed case of Covid-19 should use the Immigration Tribunal as usual. If the Appellant or any witnesses have a possible or confirmed infection then you will need to contact the Tribunal prior to the hearing.
What if the applicant has an infection?
It is highly likely that any possible or confirmed case of infection will be offered an adjournment or an alternative way of disposing of the hearing. It may, for example, be possible to arrange for a video or audio link in circumstances where an Appellant cannot attend the hearing.
What are the tribunal’s rules?
Regular users of the Tribunal will know that there are often strict rules on what can be brought in to the Immigration Tribunal. Rules on bringing in hand sanitiser have recently changed to allow for all types to be brought into the tribunal. Security is also less likely to touch court users bags or belongings and you may be required to move things around in your bag so security can check them. All court users are advised to wash their hands as regularly as possible with soap and water.
The tribunal state that their priorities in response to the virus are as follows:
- Maintain access to justice
- Support decisions and directions made by the judiciary
- Play our part in the cross-government and justice system-wide plans to deliver key services, protect the public and maintain confidence in the justice system
- Support court sittings and answer public enquiries
- Minimise disruption
- Work with partners and stakeholders to deliver priorities
- Monitor and subsequently manage any arrears of work that could accumulate in the worst-case scenario
Appellants must notify the courts!
It is important, that as an Appellant if you cannot attend your hearing you notify the court as soon as possible. There will also be people, for example, witnesses, that while they are not exhibiting any symptoms have a high risk of suffering greater symptoms or more tragic consequences on contracting the virus. It may be that these people do not want to attend court as they may have to travel on public transport and wait in waiting rooms where there is a higher risk of transference of the virus. In these circumstances, it is important that the court is informed in advance for the witnesses non-attendance and that any evidence they wish to give is recorded in writing.
Please follow the hygiene rules
If you do attend your hearing, then please be advised of the current rules on hygiene that can assist the prevention of the spread of the virus. The courts are aware that your Tribunal hearing is very important to you, however, you must consider the impact on others of attending the hearing centre where you are exhibiting some symptoms of you have potentially caught the infection. The tribunal will make arrangements for your case to be dealt with in an alternative way if you are unable to attend, so if you are exhibiting symptoms, you are strongly advised not to attend the hearing centre where you could put large groups of people at risk.