Judge says shipping case will be heard remotely

Drogehda Port seeks traditional hearing

A legal dispute over shipping, which the High Court was told is important for the economy in the context of Brexit and trade, will have to go ahead by way of remote hearing, a judge has said

A legal dispute over shipping, which the High Court was told is important for the economy in the context of Brexit and trade, will have to go ahead by way of remote hearing, a judge has said

 

A legal dispute over shipping, which the High Court was told is important for the economy in the context of Brexit and trade, will have to go ahead by way of remote hearing, a judge has said.

Mr Justice Denis McDonald said the scheduled hearing date next month for the action by companies in the Arklow Shipping group against the Drogheda Port Company DAC was “a very precious thing” in ensuring the administration of justice continues during the pandemic.

Hearings

The only way it can go ahead is via the Trialview video link system, he said.

He urged parties in the dispute to talk to lawyers who have already used the new Trialview system for court hearings which provides crisp uninterrupted links between all involved.

He said he had used Trialview in two cases recently, including the FBD Insurance/Pubs case, and it ran very smoothly.

From the judges and lawyers point of view, there was a better view of witnesses than in a physical hearing and both direct examination of witnesses and cross examination ran “incredibly smoothly”, he said.

The judge was being updated on preparations for the case which Arklow Shipping counsel Darren Lehane said had a public interest because it was “very important to the economy in terms of title issues of vessels going in and out of the country and in terms of Brexit.”

Mr Lehane said his side were very anxious for the trial to go on and fully supportive of the remote Trialview system of doing so.

David Conlan Smyth SC, for Drogheda Port, said he was instructed to seek a traditional physical hearing, not a remote one. While Trialview has been used, it has not been formally adopted under the court rules, he said.

His side “took the ordinary approach of lawyers and we would like to have evidence tested in a live hearing”. While he heard what the judge said about his experience of Trialview he wondered “if a witness would prefer to be sitting in the comfort of their own homes as against the surroundings of a courtroom.”

Cost

Counsel said there was also the issue of the cost of the privately operated Trialview system which he believed was between €5,000 to €10,000.

The judge noted the Arklow side had already agreed to meet the Trialview costs. He urged Mr Conlan Smyth to speak to other senior lawyers involved in the two cases he had heard as they would no doubt say they ran very smoothly via Trialview.

The business of the courts should not be prevented from going forward during Covid-19 where there is now technology that allows cases to take place in a completely satisfactory way, he said. He had shared some of the doubts about it before he saw it in operation but if Mr Conlan Smyth had the opportunity to see it he would be impressed.

“We are not Luddites and we should welcome and embrace the existence of this technology”.

The only way this case can proceed at the moment is remotely and while he would not make a formal order to that effect at this stage, he believed Mr Conlan Smyth should talk to other lawyers about it.

The judge rejected counsel’s suggestion of a part remote, part physical hybrid trial. He would review progress on preparation for the case in early March and said he hoped it would not be necessary to make a formal order that the case be heard by Trialview.

The judge and the lawyers all made their contributions to Friday’s update hearing via the Courts. ie video link system Pexip.