The Courts Service is introducing measures in reponse to the coronavirus outbtreak which will scale back the number and size of court hearings.
The services says that in many ways it will be business as usual, but with mitigating measures in place to reduce the numbers attending courts.
The Service says it is very aware of its responsibility to limit the scope of any threats to health which large gatherings may pose: but we are also aware that arrangements must be respectful of people’s rights.
Those who are due to visit courts and practitioners are reminded to check notices each evening on www.courts.ie and the legal diary.
Court Offices – including High Court offices dealing with probate of wills and wards of court - will remain open and function as normal.
District Courts: Criminal, Civil, Family and Child protection
The District Court will remain open throughout the country. In response to Government directions to minimise social contact, work in the District Court will be scaled scale back to deal with urgent matters only. Non-urgent matters will be adjourned to future dates.
To have cases adjourned:
· People with legal representation are asked to instruct their solicitors to seek an adjournment. They do not need to attend court and their solicitor will advise them of their next date in court.
· People who do not have legal representation should come to court and can then ask to have their case adjourned.
This approach will reduce the numbers of people attending at all District Court locations.
Video Conferencing will be available for use for custody hearings.
Family law and child protection cases will continue as normal.
Circuit Criminal Courts:
No new trials will commence in the Circuit Criminal Courts for the next 2 weeks.
Urgent applications can be made to the court.
Criminal Trials - which have commenced will continue – jurors in these cases are required to continue attending.
People summoned to attend for Jury duty in the Circuit Criminal Court, during the next two weeks are not required to attend.
Circuit Civil and Family Law
All Circuit Court civil and family law matters are generally to continue as normal. Please check www.courts.ie for any local variations or notices.
The Circuit Family Law Courts will, on a temporary basis, in an effort to reduce the numbers attending call-overs, accept consent adjournment applications by e-mail provided the Court is satisfied that all parties are consenting and are in agreement.
Please ensure that all parties are copied on e-mails requesting adjournments. The mailbox to be used for Dublin is firstname.lastname@example.org Outside Dublin should e-mail their local Courts Service office.
Insofar as possible, High Court civil lists are to continue as normal. Please check www.courts.ie for any specific variations or notices.
The Cork Personal Injuries List of cases for trial in Cork commencing on 16th March 2020 has been adjourned. Cases will automatically take their place in the next session. Applications in respect of urgent matters may be made in the Dublin Personal Injuries list.
Central Criminal Courts:
Trials in the Central Criminal Courts - which have commenced will continue – jurors in these cases are required to continue attending.
No new trials will commence in the Central Criminal Courts for the next 2 weeks.
Urgent applications can be made to the court.
People summoned to attend for Jury duty in the Central Criminal Court, during the next two weeks are not required to attend.
Supreme Court and Court of Appeal
The Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal will continue as usual – with the Court of Appeal staggering the calling of lists to minimise the numbers in court at the same time.
· Specific Arrangements for individual courts may and will change daily and court users are reminded to check www.courts.ie for updates
The Courts Service contingency planning group is continually reviewing and updating plans to meet the challenges caused by COVID-19 in Ireland.
Business continuity plans for courthouses and buildings have been updated and reviewed, and are being monitored on an ongoing basis. Official HSE guidance was issued to staff, and is being followed.
Communications plans are being utilised for Judges, staff and court users – for use in the event of any changes to schedules or cancellations.
An extensive ICT contingency plan is ready in the event of Courts Service buildings being unavailable and the issues associated with closing services, if deemed necessary, are being examined.
Additional sanitisation of public offices and courtrooms is being undertaken each day, and hygiene supplies for public offices and hand sanitisers for public areas are being installed currently.
Managers are holding staff meetings to discuss and update information.