Topic: District Court Management in the Courts of Criminal Justice
DC15 - District Court Management in the Courts of Criminal Justice
Commencing Monday 30th March 2020
- The President of the District Court has decided that given the developing COVID-19 situation and the need to focus on prevention of community spread of COVID-19 the following additional measures shall apply concerning the conduct of business of the District Courts dealing with criminal matters in the Court of Criminal Justice (CCJ).
- The capacity of the court rooms used in the CCJ for the conduct of criminal business has been significantly reduced by the Government guidance on physical distancing. To comply with this guidance in the interest of personal and public safety the capacity of the court rooms has been assessed at a maximum of 16 people.
- The personnel whose must be present in court at all times are the judge, the registrar, the resulter, the court presenter and two prison officers. This means that there should be no more than 10 solicitors and barristers, accredited members of the press or other members of the public in the courtroom at any time. This number must reduce to 9 if the court is dealing with a prisoner in custody.
- On many occasions recently the number of people in the court, other than those who must be present at all times, has far exceeded the maximum numbers. Judges have addressed this issue on a number of occasions with the members of the legal profession, but the problem persists.
- In the interests of public safety the business of the District Court in the CCJ will be conducted in the following manner for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.
- All firms who wish to represent clients at the District Court in the CCJ will notify the Bail Office of their intention by email at email@example.com before 5pm on 27TH March 2020. The Office will then compile a list of firms in alphabetical order. Any new firm can apply to be included on this list by emailing the Bail Office at any other time and they will be added to the list for the following business day.
- Solicitors or Barristers representing their firms will wait in the Atrium of the CCJ and firms will be called into each of the District Courts dealing with criminal business on a staggered basis.
- Lists of the cases before each court in advance of the court will be available and where possible circulated by email. Solicitor’s offices that which to be include in this circulation list will need to provide to the Courts Service’s CCJ office at firstname.lastname@example.org an email address that is checked regularly. The representative will then advise the registrar of each of the cases s/he in which they are instructed and the cases will be called in that sequence. Once that firm is finished their business the next firm in the sequence will be called in.
- When the representative of a firm is before one of the District Courts at the end of the scheduled cases in which they are involved they can deal with any new charge sheets on which they are instructed.
- Where a prisoner is brought in custody on a first appearance and where there is an objection to Bail the prisoner will be allowed to request a firm to represent her/him. Where possible An Garda Síochana/Irish Prison Service will contact the appropriate representative of a firm. If the prisoner does not request a firm then s/he will be provided with the list of firms and the prisoner can choose from the list. The representative of the firm will then be called by the court to deal with the matter.
- For Evening and Saturday courts An Garda Síochana will continue with their practice of identifying prisoners held in the cells to all practitioners in advance of the court. Firms representing prisoners will be called in to the court sequentially to deal with their remand cases. Prisoners who have not instructed solicitors will, when produced to the court, be given the list of solicitor firms registered and the prisoner can choose a representative firm of their choice.
- Applications for legal aid will be dealt with in the court and no accused will be directed to a solicitor from the Bench. Accused persons will be given the list of firms and asked to choose a firm from the list.
- If a prisoner is brought to court and their solicitor’s firm is no longer in the building a representative of the firm will be called to attend court.
- These procedures are necessary to reduce the number of people physically present in the court room at any time within levels needed to ensure public safety. There should be no need for any other solicitor or barrister to be present in the court room while the business of another firm is going on before the court.
- This practice direction will be reviewed by the President and the judges assigned to the CCJ on a regular basis and may be changed from time to time. This practice direction will last to the end of the COVID-19 crisis or the 30th June 2020, whichever is sooner.
26th March 2020