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24 March 2020

Covid-19 - Guidance for Courts - Lord Chief Justice's Office

Issued at the request of the Lord Chief Justice Office

Following the Prime Minister’s speech on Monday evening, the Lord Chief Justice has determined that only urgent matters as indicated in his note of 17 March (see list below) should be addressed until further notice.

All other work is to be administratively adjourned by a judge without a hearing. In most cases it is likely an 8 week period will be considered appropriate.

Where there is an urgent matter listed before the Easter break that falls into the exceptional category, it should be highlighted to the relevant court office as soon as possible so that arrangements can be made to facilitate a hearing. 

We are working with NICTS to increase the amount of business that can be dealt with by way of live link, skype or telephone conference and we hope to have more information in that regard shortly.

We will be making arrangements to establish a rota at all court tiers. We will be in touch with the Society as soon as possible to advise about further arrangements.

Neither members of the profession or public should attend court if they are not pursuing a priority matter.


Priority proceedings typically involve the immediate liberty, health, safety and wellbeing of individuals. Examples include:

Criminal proceedings

  • First remands in the Magistrates’ Courts (charge sheets);
  • Bail applications
  • PACE applications;
  • Sentencing where delay may mean time on remand exceeds any likely/realistic custody period under the sentence

Family proceedings

  • Non-Molestation Orders;
  • Applications under the Children (NI) Order 1995 such as Care Orders, Prohibited Steps Orders, Emergency Protection Orders and Secure Accommodation Orders;
  • Declaratory judgments in patients’ cases;
  • Child abduction

Civil proceedings

  • Habeas Corpus applications
  • Urgent injunctions;
  • Urgent judicial reviews



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