Western Circuit

Covid 19

Information, Contacts and Resources for Western Circuiteers

The Western Circuit recognises this has been a difficult time for the bar both locally and nationally. This page links to some of the guidance and support we have been able to provide throughout the pandemic, as well as updates from local courts as we receive them.  If you have any concerns about operating during the pandemic, please contact your local bar coordinator.


Approved Circuit policy for Crown Court attendance, with thanks to our Presiders and Resident Judges – HERE

Updated guidance for 2021 from the President of the Family Division – HERE

Escalation routes guidance for reporting to HMCTS – HERE

Specific Points of Contact at courts for hygiene concerns – HERE

November 2020

Agreed Framework for Remote Hearings in Criminal Courts – HERE

November Lockdown Hearings at Plymouth Crown Court – guidance HERE

The following court centres have issued protocols for how courts and hearings will proceed during the Covid-19 crisis:

The Remote Family Court Guide (16.04.20)

Family Courts in Avon, North Somerset and Gloucestershire

Dorset Family Courts Recovery Plan (June 2020)

HMCTS policy re Water Supply in Courts/Tribunals in Avon, Somerset and Gloucestershire (23.04.20)

Somerset DFJ Area (31.03.20)

Somerset Attended Hearings Plan (15.06.20)

Bournemouth Combined Court Statement  and Protocol on Sentencing Defendants on Bail (13.05.20)

Bristol Crown Court – Table of Hearings (29.03.20)Initial Guidance (25.03.20),  PTPH Info (31.03.20) and Letter HHJ Blair QC to Prosecution and Defence (5.05.20)

Exeter Crown Court – Guidance (08.04.20),  Contact Details Info (28.04.20) and FCMH Protocols for weeks beginning 8 and 15 June 2020

Gloucester Crown Court and Memo on Gloucester Skype Calls 6.4.20  and Gloucester Crown Court – Court Operation Protocol for Reopening 7 July 2020

Portsmouth Public/Family Law Guidance (14.04.20) , Judicial Preferences for Remote Hearings and Template for Remote Hearings (14.04.20)

Portsmouth Crown Court Note 08.04.20

Plymouth Crown Court guidance 26.03.20  and Prison Video Link/Telephone Conference Info 08.04.20 and  Updated guidance to Lawyers 30.03.20

Plymouth/Devon Family Template Order for Remote Hearings 

Southampton Crown Court Protocol and Directions and Update on Sentencing Defendants on Bail (28.04.20)

Swindon Crown Court and Letter from HHJ Crabtree re Resumption of Trials and Court Attendance from 29th June

Swindon/Wiltshire Family Hearings – Guidance 20.03.20 and Update 1 (16.04.20) and Update 2 (28.04.20)

Winchester Crown Court Information on the resumption of trials – 21.05.20  and Attendance at Court Protocol (02.07.20)

Truro Crown Court (26.03.20) and Update re Bail and Sentencing (24.04.20)

CPS Guidance on Appearance at Court via Video or Audio Links


Interim Guidance – HERE – (15.05.20) from the President of the QBD regarding listing as trials resume.

Guidance – HERE – (14.05.20) on Amended Listing Priorities in the County Court.

Employment Tribunals Guidance

Remote Civil Hearings – Updated guide (6 July 2020) by Luke Ashby of 3PB for legal professionals with advice on ensuring remote hearings are efficient and fair – HERE

CIVIL CIRCUIT PROTOCOL (19.05.20) from DCJs HHJ Cotter QC, HHJ Gore QC and HHJ Parkes QC – HERE

and BRISTOL Fast Track/Multi Track Generic Order for Hearings after 10th July – HERE

  • Webinar Video with HHJ Cotter QC 22 May 2020 – HERE
  • Webinar Video with HHJ Cotter QC 26 May 2020 – HERE
  • St John’s Chambers’ template Questionnaire – here – and Cover Letter – here – devised to obtain the information required in the Civil court protocol above, and endorsed by HHJ Cotter QC (with thanks to the St John’s Chambers clerks).

Specific Points of Contact at courts for hygiene concerns – HERE

The Circuit Committee’s Wellbeing representative, Hollie Gilbery, has compiled a Wellbeing blog – read it here – providing advice, resources and reassurance to support and encourage your wellbeing during the coronavirus crisis and beyond.

[The blog’s suggestion for a Challenge is here, and a Weekly Planner Template is here]

Thank you also to Yasmine El-Nazer at Albion Chambers who has also written an article to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Month highlighting stressors at the Bar and suggestions for managing those stressors and your wellbeing particularly during the pandemic.  Read Yasmine’s article HERE


The Circuit has a sub-committee of members who are working to help support the IT requirements of working remotely and preparing to conduct video hearings.  Their guidance (Second Edition, 2 April 2020) is HERE and contains advice about the available programmes for video and telephone hearings.  Advice will continue to be amended and updated on this page.

The Inns of Court College of Advocacy has produced a guide entitled Principles of Remote Advocacy – here  and the CPS has produced a guide to remote hearings here – CPS Guidance for Appearing at Court via Video or Audio Links [30.03.20]

MacBooks and ClickShare

A number of barristers using MacBooks have encountered significant problems with ClickShare in the last few months. This results in the MacBook losing the ClickShare connection after a few minutes, or the video and audio stuttering.

Thank you to the Midland Circuit, who have worked out a relatively simple fix for this problem, which they are happy to share – it can be read HERE

Cloud Video Platform 

27 May 2020 – HMPPS User Guidance for CVP Video Meeting Rooms – HERE 

North Eastern Circuit Guides:

Connecting to a Court Hearing via the Cloud Video Platform

Connecting to a Prison/YOI via the Cloud Video Platform

“How To” Guides

How To – Skype for Business [24.04.20]

[NB there appears to be a glitch if you update your MacOS to 10.15 – some are reporting that the microphone and or camera is being lost when using Skype for Business. You may want to be cautious before doing so at the moment.
If you have already updated, and are having problems, some members of circuit have reported the below have worked:
1) You may be able to allow Skype for Business to use your microphone: by going into System preferences > Security & Privacy > Microphone and ticking the box to allow it.
2) If this does not work, you might want to try deleting Skype for Business and downloading an older version:
When you next join a call (you can reuse an old hearing link if you have one), you should be asked to grant permission for Skype for Business to access your microphone, which you should grant.]

How To – Skype Conferences [09.04.20]

How To – Teams [02.04.20]

URGENT UPDATE re Teams – following confusion, some people have been adding contacts into their own Chambers’ “Organisation” on Teams, which means that non-members can see the activity and other contacts within the Chambers group.  Please see the “Organisations” section about ensuring that you are in the correct “Organisation” when adding contacts.​

How To – Zoom for the Family Bar [30.03.20]

IT Support within Chambers and from the Circuit

As the bar moves increasingly online throughout this situation, it will be important to ensure that everyone is supported in accessing the correct programmes properly. Documents will be provided as quickly as possible regarding the various products, and as the courts’ positions develop. For now:

  • Please consider making a list, within your Chambers, of who feels competent with each of the programmes covered in the initial guidance. This should be circulated so that less-confident members have someone to contact if they struggle to set up/use the various programmes in the coming weeks.
  • If no one in Chambers can help, please contact the following members of circuit who now comprise the Covid-19 IT Committee:

Elizabeth Bowden: ebowden@college-chambers.co.uk

Holly Rust: holly.rust@devonchambers.co.uk

Piers Norsworthy: piers.norsworthy@devonchambers.co.uk

The Western Circuit has prepared a guidance document – view here – with advice and resources for barristers in relation to insurance, benefits, self-employed grant, taxes, VAT, loans, mortgages and debt, fees, practising certificate fees, and applications to the Barristers’ Benevolent Association.  The guidance will be updated regularly as the situation progresses.

Bar Council’s Summary of BBLS Lenders May 2020 is HERE

To request more information or for any enquries    Contact Us

Western Circuit