Judge hopes High Court civil jury trials can resume next year

Health emergency would not be used as a reason to abolish civil jury trials , judge says


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 list, made the comments on Thursday after acknowledging no civil jury trials will take place this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Next February will mark a full 12 months since the last High Court civil jury action was heard, he noted. The judge said he wanted to assure all parties every step possible will be taken to ensure that jury trials will resume, when the next legal term commences in January.

He said he wanted to make clear the international health emergency would not be used as a reason to abolish civil jury trials.“Not on my watch,” he said.

The judge made his comments during Thursday’s remote call-over list 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 he hoped 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 is paramount, he said.

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

As an interim step, the court had given parties the option this term of having jury trials heard by a judge only, he noted. This was not now possible due to the Level 5 restrictions and only cases of extreme urgency that could possibly be heard between now and next term would be heard before a judge, he said.