Courts to pilot hearing cases remotely during Covid-19 pandemic
Posted on 31st March 2020 at 22:36
Journalists could watch proceedings in otherwise empty courtrooms under new system
Court cases are going to be heard remotely using video links as part the legal system’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
Pilot use of the system is to begin in the third week of April as part of a plan to ensure that the justice system continues to work despite the pandemic.
The system could result in journalists being allowed into an otherwise empty courtroom where they would watch a screen showing the judge and the others who were taking part in the court hearing by way of video link.
It is understood that the pilot use of technology to allow for the remote hearing of court cases is going to be concentrated in the High Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court.
The Chief Justice and the Presidents of the Court of Appeal, the High Court, the Circuit Court, and the District Court, held a remote meeting on Monday to review the measures already adopted in the context of the pandemic, as well as to plan for the future.
A considerable amount of work has been done on putting in place the ICT infrastructure necessary to facilitate remote court hearings that will nonetheless comply with the constitutional obligation that justice be administered in public, the judges said in a statement.
An initial systems trial will be conducted in the immediate future and, if successful, will be expanded to ensure that the system works satisfactorily prior to it being deployed to conduct actual hearings, where bona fide members of the press will be allowed be present in court.
“It is currently hoped that it will be possible in early course for the courts to pilot remote hearings, where they are suitable and where they can be conducted in a manner which is fair, and where the parties and their representatives can comply with all government guidance and direction for the time being in force,” the judges said.
The Courts Service and the judiciary have already put in place measures that have hugely reduced the number of people attending court, while leaving structures in place to deal with certain criminal matters, family law and domestic violence issues, and wards of court and other matters involving vulnerable people.
The pandemic has also seen an increase in urgent corporate insolvency cases.
On Monday, the District Court moved lists scheduled for Tallaght, Blanchardstown, Swords, Balbriggan and Dún Laoghaire, to the Criminal Courts of Justice on Parkgate Street.
The judges said they will be issuing further statements to update both the public and lawyers on measures being designed to allow the maximum number of cases to go ahead while complying with the requirements of the public health crisis.
The head of each court will, in due course, issue further guidance on how such measures will apply in the relevant court.
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