Chief Justice Frank Clarke and the court presidents are to pilot remote hearings of some court cases by video in the new Easter Term – which begins on 20 April. This will allow hearings, in suitable cases, without parties being present in court.
The Covid-19 pandemic continues to present an unprecedented challenge to the provision of core public services, to include the continued administration of justice. It is vital that these services are still delivered and, in an effort to ensure such continuity, some changes to the operation of the courts system were introduced last month. Measures had already been introduced to significantly reduce the number of people attending court.
The Chief Justice and the Presidents of each of the Courts (Court of Appeal, High Court, Circuit Court and District Court) held a remote meeting earlier this week, March 30th, to review the current response measures and to plan for the future.
Chief Justice & court presidents statement
In a statement released the following day, a novel scheme for online remote sittings to begin later this month was announced.
The statement indicated that the ICT infrastructure is in place to ensure remote hearings will operate in accordance with the constitutional obligation that justice be administered in public.
Multi-channel communication platforms would permit judges, legal counsel and other parties to be in attendance at court sittings albeit not physically in the courtroom. These settings would satisfy current restrictions while ensuring justice is still being administered in public. It would also allow for journalists to attend and report on hearings as they would in normal physical courtrooms.
It is hoped a pilot facility will be in place close to the beginning of the new legal term on 20th April 2020. Further statements and guidance on developments are expected to be issued both to the public and practitioners.
The full statement of the Chief Justice and the presidents of each court jurisdiction is available here.
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