Legal history has been made after a court sitting in which all parties were present via remote video technology.The Supreme Court undertook the short hearing - piloting ’’Remote Court’’ technology - under presiding Judge, Chief Justice Mr Frank Clarke, who said the remote hearing "will be the first of many in the coming weeks and months".
All parties were present in the court via technology and proceedings were displayed on screens for reporters acting as the eyes and ears of the public.
The Chief Justice said: "Remote hearings will be suitable for some types of proceedings in the High Court and a limited number of cases in the District and Circuit Courts. The court Presidents and the Courts Service are exploring ways in which to increase the number of cases which can be dealt with in physical hearings."
Other measures to allow legal proceedings to continue despite the Covid-19 outbreak includes significant electronic lodgement and filing of documents and a mock trial being conducted last Friday.
The Chief Justice also outlined how possible changes in court processes.
"Perhaps the most significant departure addressed in the practice direction involves the adoption of a procedure which the court has been considering for a little while but which has been expedited in the current circumstances," he said.
"It involves the possible circulation by the court, in advance of the oral hearing, of either or both of a ’’statement of case’’ and a ’’clarification request’’.
The statement of case will set out the court’s understanding of the facts, the relevant findings of the courts which have dealt with the case, the issues which arise on the appeal and the positions of the parties on those issues.
Where the court is unclear on any of those matters clarification will be sought. It is hoped that this procedure will bring greater clarity to the issues in advance and reduce the need for interventions from the court for purely clarification purposes.
He said these changes would be kept under "constant review".
One of the first Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal remote hearings also took place last Friday and Jody Cantillon, a Partner in Cantillons Solicitors in Cork, was involved on behalf of a client.
"It worked very well and it just shows that matters can progress in this strange, difficult and troubling time," Mr Cantillon said.
He added that the changes wrought by the current lockdown include conducting consultations on the phone and on Zoom and Skype.
"We are also seeing new clients on Zoom and Skype," he said.