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Off-site settlement meetings provide model for safe re-opening of courts
Courts Service chief executive Angela Denning

30 Jun 2020 / COurts Print

Off-site settlement meetings a model for safe re-opening

Legal practitioners in Cork have taken the initiative to move forward the personal injuries list, the fourth of fortnightly Courts Service Users Group meeting has heard.

Courts Service chief executive Angela Denning said practitioners came together and hired an hotel ballroom near the Washington Street courthouse.

The lawyers took control of ensuring social distancing requirements were observed and arranged for parties to conduct settlement negotiations in the hotel ballroom.

These are negotiations that, in previous times, would have been conducted in the courthouse.

In co-ordination with the Courts Service, there are plans that the cases that cannot settle and have to be argued in court will then be heard with a maximum of two cases listed per day, plus two back-up cases.

The Courts Service believes the initiative could prove a model for other venues.

Roadmap

The ‘criminal roadmap’ for re-opening has now gone to the Chief Justice and the other court Presidents for their approval.

An announcement is expected shortly on which courthouse locations around the country will be designated as centres for criminal court business only.

This will amount to one or two courthouses per circuit.

The Courts Service will select the court venues that will serve best.

Some jury trials are likely to be listed in the Courts of Criminal Justice in Dublin, towards the end of July and in September.

When the 'criminal roadmap’ had been approved, the other ‘roadmaps’ of venues for family law and child law cases will follow.

Meanwhile, more courtrooms are being video-enabled with over 300 video court sessions completed to date.

Participants have noted shorter remote hearings with a stronger focus on resolution.

Motion lists and all call overs are likely to be heard remotely, before normal court sitting hours in the morning and after normal court sitting hours in the evening.

Capacity

This will free up capacity in the physical courts for hearing more witness cases.

The Supreme Court has been sitting in the King’s Inns and the annual licensing court is likely to sit there in September.

September is likely to be a full sitting month for all courts with August as a vacation month as usual for all Courts Service staff.

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