Potential jurors in the trial of three teenagers accused of the murder of Pc Andrew Harper have been told it is a case of the “utmost importance”.
Mr Justice Edis addressed men and women gathered at the Old Bailey on Monday before they were selected to try the case, under strict social distancing rules.
He said: “I need to deal with the concerns you may have with undertaking your responsibilities and duties in a pandemic.
“Serving as a jury is a public duty and serving on a jury in difficult times is particularly important.
“The case we are about to start is of the utmost importance in which the prosecution alleges that three young men murdered a serving police officer.
“Pc Andrew Harper died on August 15 2019 when he was dragged along the road in Berkshire by a car which Henry Long, one of the defendants, was driving.
“Albert Bowers and Jessie Cole, the two other defendants who you will try, were also in the vehicle.
“Each defendant denies murder and I am sure you will readily understand why it is important that this trial takes place.”
The senior judge said that at the time of the death of the 28-year-old officer, the defendants were living near to a travellers’ caravan site in Berkshire.
The judge asked potential jurors to say if they knew anyone connected with the area and if they have a close relative who is a police officer.
Jurors will sit in court two metres apart with masks, hand sanitiser and gloves available.
Mr Justice Edis said the courtroom would be kept thoroughly clean and jurors would be provided a second court for their deliberations.
The trial is expected to go on for up to five weeks, with some witnesses giving evidence by live link.
Cole, from Aldermaston, and Bowers, from Mortimer, both aged 18, have denied murder along with Long, 19, of Mortimer, Reading.