Court sittings throughout the country are to be “scaled back” starting on Friday with the District Court only hearing “urgent” matters and no new trials to begin in either the Circuit Criminal Court or the Central Criminal Court for the next two weeks.
But trials that have already started will continue, the Courts Service has confirmed.
The Cork Personal Injuries List of cases for trial starting from Monday has been cancelled, with cases adjourned to the next session, which will be between July 13 and July 24.
In response to the escalating Covid-19 threat and following meetings with the judiciary and the legal professions during the day, the Courts Service issued a detailed statement.
“The Courts Service is introducing measures starting tomorrow [Friday], which will scale back the number and size of court hearings,” it said.
“In many ways it will be business as usual, but with mitigating measures in place to reduce the numbers attending courts.”
It said they were aware of its responsibility to both limit the scope of any threats to health, which large gatherings may pose, and people’s rights.
It said those who are due to visit courts and practitioners should check notices each evening on www.courts.ie and the legal diary.
The following measures are being taken:
- – including High Court offices dealing with probate of wills and wards of court - will remain open and function as normal;
- will remain open throughout the country. In response to Government directions to minimise social contact, work in the District Court will be scaled back to deal with “urgent matters only”. Non-urgent matters will be adjourned to future dates. People with legal representation can instruct their solicitors to seek an adjournment. People who do not have legal representation are advised go to court and ask to have their case adjourned. Video Conferencing will be available for use for custody hearings.
- and child protection cases will continue as normal.
- No new trials will commence in the Circuit Criminal Courts for the next 2 weeks. Urgent applications can be made to the court.
- - which have commenced will continue – jurors in these cases are required to continue attending. People summoned to attend for Jury duty in the Circuit Criminal Court, during the next two weeks are not required to attend;
- All Circuit Court civil and family law matters are generally to continue as normal. People are advised to check www.courts.ie for any local variations or notices.
- will, on a temporary basis, in an effort to reduce the numbers attending call-overs, accept consent adjournment applications by e-mail provided the Court is satisfied that all parties are consenting and are in agreement.
- Insofar as possible, High Court civil lists are to continue as normal. People are advised to check the website.
- of cases for trial in Cork commencing on 16th March 2020 has been adjourned. Cases will automatically take their place in the next session. Applications in respect of urgent matters may be made in the Dublin Personal Injuries list;
- Trials in the CCC - which have commenced will continue – jurors in these cases are required to continue attending. No new trials will commence in the Central Criminal Courts for the next 2 weeks. Urgent applications can be made to the court. People summoned to attend for Jury duty in the Central Criminal Court, during the next two weeks are not required to attend;
- The Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal will continue as usual – with the Court of Appeal staggering the calling of lists to minimise the numbers in court at the same time.
The Courts Service said its contingency planning group is continually reviewing and updating plans to “meet the challenges” caused by COVID-19 in Ireland.
It said: “Business continuity plans for courthouses and buildings have been updated and reviewed, and are being monitored on an ongoing basis. Official HSE guidance was issued to staff, and is being followed.”
It said communications plans were being utilised for Judges, staff and court users – for use in the event of any changes to schedules or cancellations.
“An extensive ICT contingency plan is ready in the event of Courts Service buildings being unavailable and the issues associated with closing services, if deemed necessary, are being examined,” the statement said.
“Additional sanitisation of public offices and courtrooms is being undertaken each day, and hygiene supplies for public offices and hand sanitisers for public areas are being installed currently.
“Managers are holding staff meetings to discuss and update information.”