A MURDER trial has been delayed until February next year as coronavirus continues to cause disruption in Worcester's courts.

The criminal courts in Worcester remain closed to the public as the first trials since the lockdown in March got underway elsewhere in the UK yesterday. The murder trial of Martin Saberi was listed for a directions hearing at Worcester Crown Court yesterday, the day the trial was also scheduled to begin. The case was heard by the new Recorder of Worcester, James Burbidge QC, who replaces Judge Robert Juckes QC as the city's most senior judge. The 53-year-old defendant stands accused of the murder of Amy Griffiths between January 11 and January 14 last year.

Saberi, previously of Brackley Close, Wallington, Surrey, also denies wounding and possession of a knife. As previously reported, the 51-year-old was discovered dead at her flat in Chalverton Court, Droitwich on January 14 last year.

After her death friends described her as a 'hero' in the local LGBT community. Saberi appeared at Worcester Crown Court in October last year and the trial was scheduled to begin yesterday.

However, the trial was adjourned until February 1, 2021 at the directions hearing yesterday. The case is still scheduled to be heard at Worcester Crown Court. Only staff are permitted at Worcester Crown Court and at the city's magistrates court at the moment.

The Old Bailey in London was one of just four courts earmarked to begin new cases yesterday. The Lord Chief Justice called a halt to trials on March 23. Some jurors donned face masks and they were seated two metres apart as the trial of Dr Mohammad Tahir got under way in the largest courtroom at the historic central London venue.

Fresh trials have been listed at the Old Bailey, Cardiff, Manchester Minshull Street and Bristol Crown Court as a first phase to get the criminal justice system back on track.

Special arrangements will be put in place at the courts to maintain safety, in line with Public Health England and Public Health Wales guidelines.To ensure social distancing, trials are expected to be split between up to three courtrooms. Jurors, senior barristers and the judge will occupy the main courtroom, with an overflow court for the press, public, junior barristers and police, and a third court for jury retirement.

Long and complex trials have already been put off in favour of shorter cases of up to two weeks. The move to restart jury trials comes amid growing concern over the backlog of cases and financial worries of criminal barristers.

A working group chaired by Mr Justice Edis and reporting to the Lord Chief Justice has identified seven courts for new trials in the coming months - the Old Bailey, Bristol, Cardiff, Manchester Minshull Street, Reading, Warwick, and Winchester.