Judge says Covid-19 court screens affecting ability to hear

Screens among a range of measures introduced in response to social distancing needs

The judge made the remark on Tuesday when hearing an application in Court One, one of the original Four Courts. File photograph: The Irish Times

The judge made the remark on Tuesday when hearing an application in Court One, one of the original Four Courts. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

A High Court judge has said that protective Perspex screens erected on some judicial benches at the Four Courts in response to the Covid 19 pandemic affect the ability to hear.

Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy made the remark on Tuesday when hearing an application in Court One, one of the original Four Courts.

She said the Perspex screens, placed directly in front of the judge and their registrar, are half an inch thick and have an impact on the ability to hear. Similar comments have been made by lawyers in several cases.

Another judge had last week, while sitting in a courtroom streaming with sunlight, said the screen in front of him was distracting as he could see his own reflection in it while conducting proceedings.

The screens do not run the entire length of the bench, but are placed directly before the judges and registrars. They are among a range of measures introduced in response to social distancing requirements.

On Tuesday, Ms Justice Murphy granted leave to a Limerick prison officer to challenge a decision of the Prison Service that an injury sustained when a prisoner resisted attempts to take him from his cell to go to court was not a workplace injury.

David Kennedy SC, for prison officer Michael Delaney, based at Limerick Prison, argued his client is entitled to inquire into the relevant decision-making process which had led to his losing out.

Counsel said it was a “bad enough” shoulder injury and his client required surgery.

Mr Delaney’s proceedings are against the Prison Service, Minister for Justice and Attorney General.

In an affidavit, Mr Delaney said he was in charge of D wing at Limerick Prison on August 30th, 2019, and was arranging to escort prisoners to Limerick court.

Violent struggle

He said one prisoner became aggressive as an attempt was made to take him from his cell and Mr Delaney was bitten, headbutted and suffered a shoulder injury in the violent struggle that ensued.

He later had to have surgery on the right shoulder and was unable to work.

In November 2019, he was told he had exhausted his sick leave pay entitlement and it was decided he was not entitled to avail of the Prison Service policy for occupational injury.

He claims a finding was made in relation to a colleague assaulted in the same incident that the officer had sustained an occupational injury.

He has claimed in his judicial review proceedings the decision in his case was unreasonable and irrational. And he wants an order quashing the decision refusing to treat his absence from work as occupational injury.

The case will come back before the court next month.