Coronavirus: Court hearings to be significantly scaled back

Restrictions on court hearings introduced to reduce numbers in courtrooms

 

The Courts Service is to significantly scale back court hearings as part of nationwide restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Following the announcement on Thursday by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of closures and recommended restrictions on public gatherings, the Courts Service announced a series of measures to scale back court sittings in order to minimise public contact in courtrooms.

No new criminal trials will commence in the Circuit Courts or the Central Criminal Courts for the next two weeks.

Trials that have already begun will continue, and if necessary urgent applications will be allowed to be made to the courts.

District Court sittings will be scaled back to deal with “urgent matters only,” with other cases to be adjourned to future dates in order to reduce numbers in courtrooms.

The courts service has advised people with legal representation to instruct their solicitors to seek adjournments in their cases, and those without lawyers should come to court as planned and ask for their case to be adjourned.

Family law and child protection cases in the District Court will continue as normal, and the use of video conferencing will be used in custody hearings, the Courts Service said.

Similarly, civil and family law cases in Circuit Courts “are generally to continue as normal,” the statement said.

High Court civil list hearings are set to continue, as will the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. It is planned the Court of Appeal will stagger the cases listed for calling to keep the numbers in court at the same time as low as possible.

The statement said the Courts Service was preparing an “extensive ICT contingency plan” in the event courtrooms or other buildings are forced to close due to the coronavirus.

The number of judges and staff who are in a position to work remotely has been doubled in recent days, with approximately 450 now having the necessary access to remote working options.