High Court judge hopes civil jury actions can resume next year

Mr Justice Barton said that next February will mark a full 12 months since the last High Court civil jury action was heard.
High Court judge hopes civil jury actions can resume next year

Mr Justice Barton said "not on my watch" when he wanted to make it clear that the Covid-19 pandemic would not be used as a reason to abolish civil jury trials. File image

A High Court judge has said he hopes to have civil jury trials up and running in the New Year.

Mr Justice Bernard Barton, who presides over the High Court Civil jury trials, made the comments today after acknowledging that no such trials will take place this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Justice Barton said that next February will mark a full 12 months since the last High Court civil jury action was heard.

However, the judge said he wanted to assure all parties that every step possible will be taken to ensure that jury trials will resume, when the next legal term commences in January.

He added that he wanted to make it clear that the international health emergency would not be used as a reason to abolish civil jury trials. "Not on my watch," Mr Justice Barton added.

The judge made his comments during today's remote call over of jury trials which have been backed up as a result of the pandemic.

The judge accepted there was a large degree of uncertainty due to the pandemic, but hoped that three, or possibly four, weeks will be set aside for civil jury trials next term.

The health and well-being of witnesses, jurors, practitioners and court staff was paramount, the judge said.

He added that steps will be taken so jury trials, which largely deal with defamation actions or allegations of assault against members of An Garda Siochana, can proceed in the safest manner possible.

He added that as an interim step the court had given parties the option this term of having jury trials heard by a judge only.

However, this was not possible due to the Level 5 restriction being put in place.

The only cases the judge said that could possibly be heard between now and next terms were ones of extreme urgency.

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