CUMBRIA’S courts have continued to scale back their work as the county’s criminal justice does its bit to help slow the spread of Covid-19.

Much of the scheduled work at Carlisle Crown Court has been postponed, with court officials dealing with case after case administratively through telephone calls, while today the court has only a handful of cases - all remotely.

At the city’s magistrates’ court it was a similar story, with just a handful of staff allowed into the building to deal with urgent cases.

In a letter to defence lawyers in the county, the Legal Aid Agency said that operations were being cut back so that only “priority” cases were being dealt with.

This does not include unstarted trials.

The message added: “Across the north west, we have moved to priority only listing for the period up to and including April 3.

“All parties attending court must obey social distancing.

“HMCTS is working with the Judiciary, and will continually review the ability to maintain social distancing within our reduced operations, making revised decisions accordingly.”

A Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) statement said that the service would continue to support the 35 trials nationally which were currently ongoing, but as many cases as possible would now be dealt with remotely.

In magistrates’ courts, staff would be allowed to handle overnight custody cases; and cases where custody time limits needed to be extended.

A CPS statement said: “This is a very fast moving situation, and we will continue to review the impact of these measures, and how they are operating in practice, with criminal justice partners.

“Further refinement to our position may be made in the coming days.

“We continue to take active steps to reduce physical appearances at court to an absolute minimum, with public safety uppermost in our minds.

“Separately, we are well aware of the financial difficulties being faced by many working in the criminal justice system as a direct result of this emergency.

“In recognition of the challenges, in the coming days, the CPS will bring forward proposals for revised payment arrangements for work done prior to the conclusion of a case.”