THE coronavirus pandemic caused disruption at a Worcester court as defendants did not turn up and concerns were raised about trials being derailed if jurors became ill or chose to self-isolate.

A trial had to be temporarily delayed because one juror did not attend Worcester Crown Court yesterday after following Government guidance issued the previous evening. Meanwhile, one defendant expressed concern about the dock officer coughing next to him.

However, jurors have been ordered to continue attending trials unless they are in at-risk groups or have symptoms despite government guidance for the public to avoid contact with others. The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England, has already received reports of jurors dropping out and the chairman has said witnesses, jurors, defendants, judges and court staff should not have to attend court. A defendant chose not to attend at Worcester yesterday, informing his barrister he had chosen to self-isolate. His barrister asked for a three week adjournment. At one stage the clerk in that court told the judge that the situation was 'chaotic'.

Another advocate, Julia Needham, said her client had informed the custody suite he was unwell and had a cough but no temperature although the prison authorities would have been prepared to bring him to court. The defendant cancelled a prison visit from his mother. Barrister Martin Butterworth pointed out the broader risk of beginning a trial in the current and changing circumstances with an already depleted jury.

"The uncertainty that juries face now is significant. We all expect, and I hope I can say this with confidence, there will be an increasing intensity of restrictions on all our movements. When that is going to happen I don't know" he said.