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COVID to disrupt jury trials in criminal cases

07 Jan 2022 / courts Print

COVID to disrupt jury trials in criminal cases

The Courts Service has published a number of updates setting out how operations in the courts will be affected by the recent increase in COVID-19 cases.

The President of the High Court Ms Justice Mary Irvine (small picture) said that trials in the Central Criminal Court would not resume before 24 January.

This situation will be reviewed on a weekly basis from 20 January, according to a notice on the Courts Service website.

The President of the Circuit Court Ms Justice Patricia Ryan also announced that no jury trials in criminal cases would begin before 24 January, with a review taking place on 19 January.

Supreme Court appeal hearings

The Supreme Court said that all appeal hearings in that court would be held remotely in January, due to “the present and anticipated impact” of COVID-19 on staff, judges, lawyers and litigants, and in order to protect the health of people coming to court.

“The position in this regard will be kept under review, and it is intended to return to in-person appeal hearings as soon as that is feasible,” the court said.

In the High Court, Ms Justice Irvine’s notice for Dublin said that the default position, from 11 January, would be that all witness actions would be listed for a physical hearing.

It added that certain proceedings that did not require oral evidence might be listed for a remote hearing, and that many applications customarily heard on a Monday would be listed for a remote hearing.

For chancery proceedings, all actions will be listed for a physical hearing, unless otherwise ordered. Cases may be heard remotely where the parties agree, or by direction of the court.

Family-law proceedings

All civil jury actions will be listed for a physical hearing, and will be heard at a venue to be notified, where the Courts Service has rented facilities large enough to allow them to take place in as safe as an environment as possible.

The High Court President advised that, in the case of witness actions in the Commercial Court, hybrid hearings should take place wherever possible.

“Subject to that criterion, the default position will be that, unless otherwise directed, the court will sit physically to hear such actions. However, witness actions may be heard fully remotely where the parties agree, or by direction of the court,” the notice said.

For family-law proceedings, all such proceedings will be afforded a physical hearing, unless otherwise ordered. Applications for a remote or hybrid hearing should be discussed between the parties, and made at the list to fix dates.

Personal-injuries cases

Unless otherwise ordered, all personal-injuries cases will be given a physical hearing, but parties are being are encouraged to avail of hybrid hearings wherever possible. Personal-injuries actions may, however, be heard fully remotely where the parties agree or by direction of the court.

Proceedings in a number of other areas will continue to be heard remotely.

For High Court proceedings at provincial venues, all actions will be listed for a physical hearing.

“Legal practitioners are nonetheless encouraged to ensure that only necessary witnesses attend court, and that hybrid hearings be availed of, where possible,” the president’s notice said.

Circuit Court

In the Circuit Court, all criminal cases listed for the week of 11 January, and the week of 17 January, will be included on the Legal Diary on the day scheduled.

Defendant solicitors are to inform their clients that they need not attend if on bail, and wherever possible an appearance of an accused person in custody is to be by video link.

For that two-week period, all cases listed as new mentions before the Circuit Court, where the accused person is in custody, are to be dealt with by video link, where possible.

District Court Appeals will proceed on the week of 17 January, while Ms Justice Ryan’s notice said that all other criminal matters would be heard as usual – including sentencing hearings, arraignments and bail applications.

District Court

The President of the District Court, Judge Paul Kelly, said that the Courts Service was unable to support all courts scheduled for the two-week period from 10 January.

While all family-law and child-care law proceedings would proceed as normal, the president warned that some family-law cases might need to be adjourned, due to the impact of COVID-19 on staff, judges and practitioners.

District Courts will continue to hear criminal cases where the accused is in custody, and cases where people are charged with new offences. An accused, if legally represented, is excused from attending court.

Hearings in criminal cases will not proceed, and will be remanded or adjourned – unless the case involves domestic-violence offences, or where there is a plea, the accused is not in jeopardy, and the case can be dealt with by a court presenter.

All District Court civil and licensing matters will be adjourned to a date assigned by the court.

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