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Tuesday 14 July 2020

'All we are asking is for the judiciary to follow government guidance'- FDA writes to the Lord Chief Justice

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The FDA has written to the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, to raise serious concerns about the approach taken by some members of the judiciary to applications from prosecutors to appear in court remotely.

The union has received deeply concerning reports from members working in the CPS about the attitude of some judges, with reported conduct including asking for inappropriate personal details from advocates who are shielding, and suggesting prosecutors were 'working to rule' for applying to appear remotely.

In the letter, the FDA argued that there should not be “any need for prosecutors to be forced to justify why they wish to appear via live link. Their wish to follow both their employer’s guidance and the official government guidelines should be sufficient to meet the ‘interests of justice’ test."

“The use of Cloud Video Platform has worked well during the crisis and we believe that this should be the default means by which advocates appears in court for the foreseeable future.”

The letter made clear that the FDA recognises that attendance at court is a judicial function, and there will be a limited number cases where physical attendance is necessary, but these should be the exception, not the rule.

“Comments from some judges insinuating that prosecutors who wish to appear remotely are shirking or being difficult are extremely troubling,” said Steven Littlewood, FDA National Officer for the Crown Prosecution Service.

"Our members have continued to work hard throughout this crisis and there is absolutely no reason to doubt their dedication now. All we are asking is for the judiciary to follow the government and civil service guidance.”

The Judicial Office confirmed when approached for comment by the Law Society Gazette that the letter had been received and the Lord Chief Justice would respond.

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