The Ministry of Justice is drawing up plans to reduce the number of people sitting on a jury from 12 to nine in order to help social distancing in courtrooms.

Criminal courts face enormous waiting lists after having to pause all but their most urgent cases for three months since the start of lockdown. The backlog has led to proposals that some cases in the crown court should dispense with the jury altogether and feature a judge sitting with magistrates instead. Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has rejected that idea after a major backlash from the legal profession which warned that scrapping the centuries-old right to a jury trial to those accused of serious crimes risked a major miscarriage of justice. A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We have worked closely with our world-renowned judiciary to introduce a range of measures to keep the justice system running during the pandemic, including keeping priority courts open, restarting jury trials and swiftly increasing remote hearings. We are working on further measures but are not considering judge-only trials in the crown court.”