Courts during Hilary Term 2022

07/01/2022

The Courts Service has published a range of notices regarding disruption due to Covid-19 and arrangements for sittings.

Courts Service during Hilary term

Background

The high incidence rate of Covid 19 has resulted in unprecedented numbers of Courts Service staff, Judges, practitioners and witnesses unable to attend at court houses. As a consequence, there will be some disruption to Court sittings until 21 January 2022.

This is an evolving situation which will be kept under review on a regular basis, having regard to staffing levels, Judicial availability, Government announcements, and public health guidance.

Jury trials paused

Jury trials of necessity involve a large number of people being required to attend over a sometimes prolonged period and are therefore particularly affected by inability of individual practitioners, staff, jurors, witnesses or Judges to attend.  In the circumstances, criminal trials due to commence in the Central and Circuit Courts will not start before 24 January 2022.

Arrangements across jurisdictions

Steps will be taken in each jurisdiction to address the issues arising in other areas. The Courts Service and the Presidents of the respective jurisdictions are aware of the unique nature of each jurisdiction and the differing implications of curtailing services across Civil, Criminal and Family areas of law. The aim is to minimise disruption to Courts for the shortest possible period. Priority will continue to be given to urgent matters such as domestic violence applications

Notices, Orders and Practice Directions from the respective Presidents setting out how business will be conducted in the Superior, Circuit and District Courts for the initial weeks of 2022 have been published on www.courts.ie. Practitioners can access links to individual notices, and summaries, below.

Every effort will be made to conduct as much business as is possible. However ,given the evolving situation, court business may have to be cancelled at short notice. Where this occurs, it is intended that any adjournment will be for the minimum period. In jurisdictions where hearings are transferred to a remote platform, it is intended that in-person hearings will resume as soon as is feasible.

Supreme court

All hearings scheduled until the end of January will be heard by remote platform.

Court of Appeal

All hearings scheduled will be heard by remote platform with requests for physical hearings and hybrid hearings considered on a case-by-case basis. The position will be reviewed on 19 January 2022.

High Court

Criminal trials due to commence in the Central Criminal Court will not start before 24 January 2022.  All other work will continue subject to the availability of Judges and Registrars.

Circuit Court

Criminal trials due to commence on all Circuits will not start before 24 January 2022.  All other work will continue subject to the availability of Judges and Registrars. Practitioners are asked to note the directions in relation to the attendance of accused persons in criminal matters and use of remote hearings in Civil and Family matters where possible.

View Circuit Court President's Orders below:

District Court

An accused person, if legally represented, is excused from attending at criminal matters. Un-represented accused should attend in person. Hearings in Criminal cases will not proceed save in limited circumstances. All remands where the accused is in custody should be dealt with by video-link.

Court Civil and Licensing matters will be adjourned to a date assigned by the Court.

All Child Care cases will proceed as normal until further notice. If the parties have reached agreement, then a consent order may issue. Consent adjournments can be notified to the relevant court office by email.

Family law matters will proceed subject to the availability of Judges and Registrars.

Safety measures for those attending Court buildings

Anyone attending Court during the upcoming legal term is asked to adhere to the following guidelines:

  1. Anyone with symptoms of Covid-19. or who has had a positive antigen test, is awaiting a PCR test or test results or who has been advised that they are a close contact of someone with Covid-19should not attend at court premises.
  2. Everyone entering a Courts Service premises, save for medical or other welfare considerations, is expected to wear a face covering.
  3. The Courts Service has implemented a robust and successful Covid-19 Safety Management Programme to ensure that Courtrooms and all public spaces in court buildings are kept as safe as possible. This programme recognises that the risk of transmission in a courtroom setting increases with the length of time a person is present indoors and the number of people in attendance over that period. Physical distancing measures and capacity numbers in place for all courtrooms and some other spaces within court buildings should be strictly observed.
  4. All court users are expected to observe good respiratory and hand hygiene.
  5. The use of staggered lists, videolink to prisons, remote callovers and courts will continue to assist with management of footfall in buildings.
  6. The Courts Service will continue to use dedicated staff to manage the movement of persons on our premises.
  7. Occupants of bar rooms and consultation rooms should comply with all advised Covid-19 safety measures.
  8. Lastly, the Courts Service and Judiciary are seeking the assistance of practitioners in the following:
    • Please agree in advance as many issues and as much evidence as possible in order to shorten hearings and avoid witnesses attending court unnecessarily.
    • Where possible, consultations in relation to upcoming proceedings should take place in the days or weeks preceding the hearing date assigned to a case and should take place otherwise than on Courts Service premises so that the safety of those required to attend court on any given day can be best protected.
    • In relation to witness cases, hybrid hearings should be availed of, wherever possible.