The Courts Service has confirmed that full court sittings will resume tomorrow (22 May) after it received detailed public health advice on the length of sessions.
On Wednesday, the Chief Justice and other presidents of the courts said they were limiting court sittings to two hours due to advice given to the Houses of the Oireachtas before a committee meeting earlier this week.
Welcoming the news, Law Society President Michele O’Boyle said she was glad to note that the question of limiting court sittings to two hours had been clarified and resolved.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the Courts Service to significantly increase the very low volume of cases currently being listed before the courts while complying fully with public health guidelines,” she said in a statement.
In a letter to staff and representatives of court users, Courts Service CEO Angela Denning said Professor Martin Cormican of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre had now clarified the issues raised in the Oireachtas.
Professor Cormican has advised the Courts Service that public health advice remains unchanged, and there is no rule that people should spend less than two hours in the same room as others. Therefore, from an infection control perspective, there is no need to limit court sessions to two hours.
Professor Cormican said the consequence of sessions lasting longer than two hours would be that if someone tested positive, all persons in the courtroom with them for the full two hours would be considered a potential contact.
The Courts Service says it is confident it will be able to identify parties who have been in court for more than two hours. A record of those in courtrooms for more than two hours will now be kept – but only for contact tracing purposes.
The body is also assessing the numbers who might safely be accommodated in each courtroom.
Ms Denning said the latest advice provided “helpful clarification and reassurance”, adding that the Courts Service would comply with and implement any future changes in public health guidance.
The Law Society had expressed concern on Wednesday about the two-hour limit, with director general Ken Murphy describing it as “bizarre and very frustrating”.