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Courtrooms could be limited to 15 people

20 May 2020 / justice Print

Courtroom numbers could be limited to 15

Law Society President Michele O’Boyle has said it is likely to be a very long time, if ever, before the courts return to the volume and process of cases they traditionally heard.

She was updating solicitors on the most recent meeting of the Court Consultative Users Group, chaired by Courts Service CEO Angela Denning, which focused on the reopening of physical courtrooms.


“In the coming weeks and months, our working lives will continue to change,” she said. “This will demand collective creativity from practitioners, from service providers, and from stakeholders.”

The president also said solicitors must lead a cultural change in use of the courts, and that the resolution of disputes earlier, including by mediation, would have to be a feature of this.


The president said she expected quotas on the number of people permitted in a courtroom at any one time, with even the largest courtroom in the Four Courts being restricted to no more than 15 people. Smaller courtrooms are likely to have a smaller quota.

She said the Government’s public health advice as issued by the HSE would apply, as there would be no specific advice issued for the courts.

“There will be an emphasis on personal responsibility of all court users to comply with the HSE public health advice,” she added.


The president listed a number of measures being taken in courtrooms to comply with social distancing and health advice, including signage to specifically identify where those attending were permitted to sit.

Courtrooms are currently being fitted with perspex screens for the bench – which will make the use of microphones more important - and hand sanitisers for judges. If the use of face masks is introduced on Government recommendation, parties attending the court will be expected to provide their own.

To the extent possible, depending on the characteristics of different court buildings, a one-way system for the passage of people will be put in place, she added.


The president said solicitors may be asked to keep a note of who accompanies them to a courthouse for possible subsequent contact tracing purposes.

She has put forward a proposal that a small users forum be set up by individual Bar Associations to work in consultation with the court manager to identify a pathway forward to conduct cases in local courts.


Another area discussed at the group’s meeting was the need to reduce the time required to hear each case.

“Parties may be expected to have an issues paper ready in advance, giving an estimate of the time required. This will allow the spread of time among court users and is a more productive use of court time, enabling more cases to progress”, the president said.

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