Updates on The Courts Service's COVID-19 Response

Safely attending a court building

This informational video details the measures the Courts have taken, in partnership with the Chief Justice and the judiciary, to ensure that cases are conducted in line with Government and HSE guidelines, requirements and protocols.  To keep others safe, only those with essential business should attend the Courts during the pandemic.  

District Court – Plan for Resuming Business

District Court – Plan for Resuming Business

31st July. The President of the District Court in consultation with the Chief Justice and other Court Presidents has decided that the following additional measures concerning the business of the Court will be implemented from the 1st September 2020. These measures are a necessary response to the developing COVID-19 situation and the continued need to focus on prevention of community spread of COVID-19 while ensuring access to justice in a manner fully respecting public safety and considering Government public health advice

Regular business in the District Court will resume as much as is safely possible from 1st September 2020. Business must continue to be conducted in accordance with public health guidelines. This means changes to the administration of the business of each court will be necessary to ensure public safety.

We will be limited to the number of people that can safely be present in any of our court buildings and court rooms at any time. Accordingly, we must put in place measures to better regulate the numbers required to attend courts to ensure that court buildings do not become overcrowded.

This will include courts adopting measures to schedule the court day according to business and the scheduling of hearings. Details of the schedule adopted by each court in the Dublin Metropolitan District (DMD), District 13 Limerick and District 19 Cork across criminal, civil and family law business is published with this statement and will be set out on the Court Service Website. These schedules will come into effect from 1st September 2020.

There may be some variations in the volume of work that can be safely carried out in different Districts as some court buildings will have a greater capacity for waiting than others, therefore it will be important to be familiar with the schedule for the court that you are attending. Also published with this statement are plans for District 1 County Donegal, District 4 Counties Galway & Roscommon, District 7 County Galway, District 9 Counties Longford & Westmeath, District 22 Counties Carlow and Kilkenny, District 23 County Wexford and District 24 Waterford City. Practitioners are advised to contact local offices to establish measures that are being taken locally.

From 1st September 2020 all persons summoned or bailed to attend court must attend unless expressly excused by the presiding judge.

In all District Courts only persons who have been summoned to court or who have business listed before the courts should attend at court buildings for the foreseeable future. Exceptions will be made for advocates or support workers to attend with vulnerable witnesses.

People whose cases have been block adjourned or remanded will be notified by the Court Service, the relevant prosecutor or their solicitors of the date and time they are next due to be in Court. Those with business before the court are asked to come to court only at the time specified. Legal practitioners are asked to have their instructions taken in advance of the court event and to have any settlement talks in advance of court appearances.

Those attending court are requested to observe public health guidance regarding social distancing, hand hygiene, cough/sneeze etiquette and use of face coverings while in the court building. The Court Service has set our guidance on how to access the courts safely and we expect all court users will always observe this guidance.

The numbers that may be present in court will also be limited to the number that can safely be accommodated in accordance with social distancing guidelines. There may be times when those not actually necessary to the conduct of the case before the court may be asked to leave and we ask for your cooperation in this regard. The Court Service has put measures in place to help people safely navigate their way through court buildings and again we ask for your cooperation. In the event that courts cannot be conducted safely Judges may have to suspend cases until a safe environment can be achieved.

We are encouraging all matters before the District Court to be concluded with as few court events as possible and we appreciate the cooperation of An Garda Síochana, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and legal practitioners and all court users in this endeavour.

Where possible we will be using live television links for remote courts to avoid people having to physically come to a court. In the District Court this will most likely be for call overs of family law or child care matters, for some (mainly interlocutory) hearings in child care matters, and perhaps for some ex parte family law applications. Prisoners will continue to appear by live television link wherever possible.

These measures will be constantly reviewed in line with public health guidelines and may be subject to change as the guidelines change or our experience suggests changes are required.

His Honour Judge Colin Daly
President of the District Court
31st July 2020

Details of plans for the safe conduct of business for the Dublin Metropolitan District, Carlow, Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Roscommon, Waterford, Westmeath and Wexford can be found at this page.

Statement of the Chief Justice and Presidents of All Courts Concerning the Wearing of Face Coverings (20th July)

Statement of the Chief Justice and Presidents of All Courts Concerning the Wearing of Face Coverings (20th July)

All persons attending any court venue are expected to strictly comply with current public health guidance concerning Covid-19.  Physical distancing (currently 2m) must be maintained at all times and all attending should engage in frequent handwashing and comply with respiratory etiquette.   

Whilst face coverings are not mandatory at present, it is strongly advised that all persons, save for those who for medical or other welfare considerations cannot wear a face covering, should do so unless giving evidence, questioning a witness or addressing the court.  Anyone wishing to use a face covering when addressing the court or giving evidence should be permitted to do so, unless the presiding judge considers the same prejudicial in all of the circumstances.

The wearing of a face covering does not lessen in any way a person’s obligation to comply with social distancing and other public health guidance.  

Finally, for your own safety and that of others, please ensure you use your face covering correctly and safely.  Do not place it on any surface and ensure that you dispose of it safely.

Statement of the President of the High Court 17th July 2020

Statement of the President of the High Court 17th July 2020

‘Briefing on expansion plans for ongoing work of the High Court - Civil Litigation’
A statement from President Irvine

Friday 17 July 2020: In order to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus, on 13th March, 2020, the then President of the High Court made a statement to the effect that the High Court would only sit for limited urgent matters including habeas corpus, extradition, bail applications, injunctions, Wardship and urgent judicial review applications.  In so doing, he announced that no new witness actions would commence before the end of Hilary Term.  Later, on 16th May 2020, he directed that for the remainder of the Easter Term, no new cases or trials should begin, even if they did not involve oral testimony from witnesses. He also gave directions that certain motion lists be adjourned generally with liberty to re-enter.

Current Position

As the Government’s plan to reopen society has progressed, the High Court has been in a position to resume some of the work it had earlier postponed due to Covid-19 considerations. Subject to current Department of Health advice and the restrictions necessary to best protect the safety of court users, the High Court is now in a position to resume work across all divisions including the hearing of proceedings requiring oral testimony.  However, the need to comply with public health guidance and in particular social distancing requirements will mean that the High Court will not, in the near future, enjoy the same resources that it did prior to the onset of Covid-19.  And, to compound matters, such arrears of work as have built up due to Covid-19 must now be cleared.  In response to this unprecedented situation, in addition to the service routinely provided to deal with urgent matters in August, the members of the High Court have agreed to sit in September in order to hear and determine applications and proceedings that were postponed due to Covid-19. Many Courts have already commenced upon the task of clearing backlogs.

Extensive information on each area of work / lists is provided herein, please click on the relevant link to access the specific work area/ list.

1.      Resources
2.      Asylum
3.      Extradition
4.      Chancery
5.      Commercial Court
6.      Ex Parte Common Law Applications
7.      Competition List
8.      Hague Convention List
9.      Insolvency/Bankruptcy/Examiner’s List/Restriction and Disqualification of Directors
10.         Family Law
11.         Non-Jury/ Judicial Review
12.         Personal Injury Proceedings
13.         Probate

 

Thanks

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the High Court, the Court’s registrars and all court staff who have worked so hard throughout this particularly difficult period to keep the courts functioning to the maximum extent possible. I am particularly grateful for the fact that they worked through the Whit Vacation and will work throughout the month of September to minimise the prejudice to litigants resultant upon the Covid-19 pandemic.  And, they will continue to provide emergency support across all divisions throughout the month of August.

I am particularly appreciative of the fact that judges, registrars and court staff have so willingly agreed to take on the significantly increased workload necessary to help ready the buildings for use as part of the wider reopening that is now proceeding.  Finally, my special thanks to the registrars and court staff for their continued assistance in devising systems which will allow for much of the court’s work to be carried out remotely but which will create for them a significantly increased workload.

Mary Irvine
President of the High Court

 

1.Resources

Because of the greatly reduced numbers of persons who may safely be accommodated in courtrooms due to social distancing requirements, only a limited number of available courtrooms are suitable for the hearing of cases requiring oral evidence and multi-party actions will pose a significant challenge. To preserve courtrooms for those cases which can only be dealt with by way of a physical hearing, steps are underway to ensure that all proceedings and applications as may justly be determined without oral evidence will be heard remotely. The onus will be on a party contending that a matter may not justly be determined without oral evidence to so establish.  The success of remote hearings will depend upon the parties adhering to such Practice Directions or other Directions as may be made and to compliance with such requirements as there may be concerning the lodgement of papers and authorities.

A significant benefit of transferring work to remote platforms will be the fact that remote hearings should be “Covid-19 proof” in the event that a second wave of the virus leads to the introduction of new or additional health and safety restrictions.

It is hoped that by the start of October 2020, all High Court courtrooms will be capable of being used for either physical or remote hearings thus maximising their potential usage. Nonetheless, it is likely that from time to time cases listed for hearing either remotely or physically may have to be adjourned due to lack of resources.

As part of this reopening, and in line with Government advice, courtrooms will accommodate very limited numbers of people. This means that access to the courts will in practice tend to be limited to the lawyers in the case, and perhaps one or two litigants, with the occasional court reporter. The level of access will depend on the size of each courtroom and its prescribed maximum occupancy. In the interests of public health, all court users are respectfully requested to adhere to the prescribed maximum occupancy numbers and to comply with any related Practice Direction or other directions as may be given by a presiding judge or their Registrar to ensure that hearings proceed safely as possible.

What follows is a brief outline of the work planned or underway in the busier divisions of the High Court. For information about work in areas other than those mentioned below, please consult the Office of the Principal Registrar, Mr. Pat Treacy.

2.Asylum

The Asylum List is fully operational and is now working entirely remotely save for cases in which one of the parties is not legally represented. 

3.Extradition

The Extradition List is up to date. New cases will be listed on the 18th August and 8th and 29th September 2020.

4.Chancery

Notwithstanding Covid-19 restrictions, all urgent matters such as applications for injunctions and petitions to wind up companies, were heard in accordance with standard practice.  Almost all cases listed for hearing that were adjourned generally and did not involve oral testimony, have since been heard or assigned a date for hearing.

On 30th July 2020, cases previously adjourned generally will be assigned new hearing dates.

On 15th October 2020, new cases which have been certified as ready for hearing will be assigned hearing dates.

On 22nd October 2020, any outstanding matters such as motions, for mentions etc. which were adjourned generally will be assigned dates.

The Chancery 1 Motion list has resumed, and judges will sit throughout September 2020 to clear the backlog of approximately 147 motions.

The Chancery 2 Motion list has also resumed.  Following additional sittings due to take place on 7th and 8th September next, the list will be up to date.

Plans are advancing to ensure that as much work as possible in the Chancery lists is done remotely. At this time, it is not proposed to hear any application or proceedings in which one of the parties does not have legal representation, remotely. However, that is a situation which will remain under review.

Parties are asked to monitor the Courts Service website and the Legal Diary for Practice Directions as may apply to Remote Hearings and the delivery/filing of Written Submissions in Chancery matters.

5.Commercial Court

Notwithstanding Covid-19 restrictions, cases and applications in the Commercial Court continued to be heard. Such cases included judicial reviews (including planning cases with the commercial aspects), public procurement cases, statutory appeals, injunctions, applications under the Companies Acts (including schemes of arrangement), Insurance Acts applications and European Cross-border Merger applications. Almost all of those cases which had to be adjourned due to Covid-19 restrictions have been dealt with in recent weeks.  No case involving oral evidence has been heard in the Commercial Court since 18th March 2020. Such cases were either settled or had to be adjourned. It is hoped that, in accordance with Practice Direction HC 91, those cases which were adjourned for Covid-19 considerations will be heard with effect from September 2020.

There will be at least one judge assigned to the Commercial List each day in August (for urgent matters) and in September 2020. There will be two Commercial motion lists in August (11th and 25th) and five Commercial motion lists in September (1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th) (all Tuesdays and all to be heard remotely). In addition, a number of cases/applications have been listed for hearing in September.

Each Friday at 10.45am there is a callover of all cases/applications listed for hearing the following week. Parties must email the registrar by 4pm on the Wednesday of that week to obtain details of the VMR for the callover.

Hard copy papers for cases/applications listed for hearing in the following week’s Commercial List must be delivered to the List Room of the Central Office by 4:30pm on the previous Wednesday with soft copies emailed to the registrar by the same time. (See Notice in Legal Diary)

The Commercial motion list resumed on Monday 25th May 2020. The moving party must lodge hard copies of the motion papers in the List Room of the Central Office and send soft copies by email to the registrar (copied to the other parties to the motion) by 4:30pm on the preceding Wednesday (see Notice in Legal Diary). The moving party must also email the registrar by 4:40pm on that Wednesday in order that the details of the Virtual Meeting Room (VMR) can be furnished to them. The email must include email contacts for the other parties to the motion. At present, the registrar emails the other parties with the relevant details.

6.Ex Parte Common Law Applications

This list recommenced on 29th June, 2020.  It is no longer possible to move such an application without prior notice.  Practitioners are referred to the Notice in the Legal Diary setting out the new practice.  

7.Competition List

The Competition List is operating in accordance with standard practice.

8.Hague Convention List

In light of the international obligations involved in this list, and the nature of the applications, the list has been managed throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.  Interim and final consent orders have been made and directions have been given remotely in order to ensure progress in the proceedings.  Physical sittings recommenced on 27th May 2020.  A number of matters are almost ready for hearing and it has been determined that these are suitable for remote hearing.  It is expected that any matter that is ready for hearing can be given a date for a remote hearing in early course. 

9.Insolvency/Bankruptcy/Examiner’s List/Restriction and Disqualification of Directors

The Restriction and Disqualification of Directors List has been adjourned until 19th October 2020.  The Insolvency List has been operational since the statement of the President of the High Court of 8th May.  The same position pertains in relation to the Bankruptcy (Examiner’s Office) List.    Plans are being made to ensure that as many of these applications as possible will be heard remotely.

10.Family Law

The Family Law Court has been sitting since 8th May 2020.  On 20th July, 2020, there will be a list to fix dates for September and the Michaelmas Term. 

11.Non-Jury/ Judicial Review

All cases that were adjourned due to Covid-19 restrictions were recently called over with a view to offering parties a hearing date. To reduce the prejudicial effects of Covid-19, judges will sit in September 2020 to hear cases which do not require oral testimony. It is planned that such hearings will be carried out remotely, save where one of the parties is not legally represented.  With effect from October 2020, dates will be fixed for cases where oral testimony will be required. At present there are no plans to hear such cases remotely. However, that situation will be kept under constant review. New IT platforms are being trialled and if successful, may allow such cases to be heard remotely at a future date. Parties are asked to monitor the Courts Service website for Practice Directions as may apply to remote hearings and the delivery/filing of written submissions.

The callover of the Monday Non-Jury list is held at 10:45am when cases are assigned. All papers for such hearings must be lodged no later than 5:00pm on the previous Wednesday. Consent orders and consent adjournments should be notified by email in advance to the Registrar assigned to the Court 6 list. As and from October 2020, it is expected that this list, save for those cases/applications involving a party who is not legally represented, will be heard remotely. 

Papers and supporting documentation for ex parte applications for Judicial Review must be lodged no later than 4:30pm on the Thursday preceding the application.

12.Personal Injury Proceedings

Until 14th July 2020, because of Covid-19 restrictions, the hearing of personal injuries actions had to be suspended. On 14th July the hearing of personal injuries actions resumed in Dublin, albeit with a somewhat reduced daily list (15) due to the reduced availability of Covid-19 compliant courtrooms. A remote callover takes place each morning at 10.15am. Apart from specially fixed cases, which will be assigned on a priority basis, all other cases will be assigned by lottery in the customary way.  Personal injury sittings will also take place this month in Cork Limerick and Kilkenny. All such sittings will be conducted in accordance with current Department of Health guidelines.

Every effort will be made to ensure that cases postponed since 18th March 2020 will be determined as a matter of priority. And, in order to alleviate the consequences of Covid-19 for personal injuries litigants the High Court will sit through September. For further information, see the Notice in respect of the Personal Injuries list - July to September 2020 on the Courts Service website.

All motions postponed by reason of Covid-19 are presently being heard and new motions may be now issued returnable for the Michaelmas and Hilary Terms. Parties and their legal advisers are asked to keep a close eye on the Legal Diary and the Courts Service website as it is anticipated that there are likely to be changes to the manner in which common law motions are currently listed and heard in an effort to future proof them against the consequences of a further Covid-19 surge.

13.Probate

The Probate List will be fully up to date by the end of July 2020.  It is anticipated that all Probate applications will be heard remotely as and from October 2020.

Courts planning to to safely expand hearings - Statement from the Chief Justice

Courts planning to to safely expand hearings - Statement from the Chief Justice

10th July 2020. At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis it was necessary, for reasons of public safety, to significantly reduce court sittings but it was also necessary to ensure that urgent cases continued to be heard.  As the restrictions adopted by government have come to be loosened it has proved possible to increase the number of sittings across all of our courts.  However, the level of business still remains significantly below that which can be conducted in normal times.  

It was necessary for the judiciary and the Courts Service to ensure that any increase in sittings met the government’s return to work protocols although, in reality, the courts were not returning to work for they had never closed.  

A further comprehensive assessment of the ability to provide a much expanded range of court hearings has been conducted over recent weeks and it is now possible to identify further significant increases in court throughput.

Read the Chief Justice's Full Statement

Chief Justice update on the ongoing business of the Supreme Court

With one exception all appeals to the Supreme Court since initial government guidance was issued in mid-March have been conducted remotely.  That situation is likely to continue for the immediate future although the Court will seek to arrange either a full physical hearing or a so-called hybrid hearing (where some only of those involved are in a courtroom) where it considers that the interests of justice so require.  As noted in the statement above, appellate hearings are more suitable for remote conduct than other types of case such as witness actions.  As also noted in the general statement every case conducted remotely frees up space for the hearing of cases which are not suitable for such hearings.

I would also like to draw attention to the fact that there has been a reduction in the number of appeals coming to the Supreme Court which may well, in significant part, be due to the reduced number of cases which have, in the recent past, been able to have been conducted in both the High Court or the Court of Appeal.  A significant increase in the throughput of cases in those courts is underway.  It is, therefore, expected that the number of cases coming to the Supreme Court will shortly return to normal.  The Court has been taking advantage of the temporarily reduced number of new cases to implement new procedures, bring the delivery of reserved judgments up to date and minimise the time between the grant of leave to appeal and the hearing.  It is currently anticipated that all cases in respect of which leave to appeal has been or will be granted before the end of July will be in a position to be offered a date for hearing before the end of November.  Likewise, it seems likely that any cases which are given leave to appeal during August and September will, if they can be made ready in time, be heard before Christmas.

Statement of the President of the Court of Appeal on the Court's continued business

In the aftermath of the then Taoiseach’s statement on St. Patrick’s Day, the Court of Appeal began to make preparations to hear appeals remotely. The first such appeal was heard on 20th April 2020, and since then, some 125 appeals have been heard.

The Court of Appeal continues to deal with a number of appeals on both the Civil side and Criminal side of the Court on a daily basis. On a typical day, appeals are heard in three virtual courtrooms. Appeals for remote hearing are listed in the Legal Diary up to 31st July 2020. It is expected to deal with close on 50 cases during that period. The Court has been in a position to respond positively to requests for priority hearings and would hope to be in a position to continue to do so.

It is intended that the Court of Appeal will sit to deal with appeals during September 2020.

Read the President's full statement

Statement of the President of the High Court regarding the Personal Injuries List

Statement of the President of the High Court regarding the Personal Injuries List

Friday 26 June 2020: The newly-appointed President of The High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine provides a statement regarding the Personal Injuries list and the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic. The text of the statement is reproduced below

June 26th 2020: Statement of President of the High Court regarding the Personal Injuries Claims listed in the Legal Diary for the 23, 24 and 25 June

When I applied for the position of President of the High Court I promised that I would do everything in my power to minimise the effects of Covid 19 on those requiring access to justice. And, in making this statement today I am taking my first step towards meeting that promise.

Because of the notice which has appeared in the legal diary in recent days, I am proceeding on the basis that it is principally members of the legal profession who practice in the area of personal injuries litigation that will note the content of this short statement. However, the statement is also relevant to those whose business it is to indemnify individuals or entities against claims for negligence, because it is they who, in most cases, decide which cases are fought and which are settled and, if settled, for how much. And, all who I have mentioned have an important role to play in the administration of justice.  

Because of social distancing and other safety issues, finding a way to safely and justly hear cases involving numbers of witnesses presents a challenge that is unlikely to be entirely overcome in the short term.  Regrettably, because personal injury claims fall into this category, 320 claims have been postponed since 18th March 2020.   And, whilst it is hoped to restart some level of personal injuries litigation in the coming weeks, I am absolutely confident that with your help the hardship that will otherwise be visited on the many litigants whose claims have been adjourned or will in the immediate future be adjourned through no fault of their own, can be greatly reduced. As major stakeholders in personal injuries litigation you, the people I have just mentioned, have that power, as I will now explain.

Read the full statement.

 

June 18th 2020: The informational video at the top of this page details the measures the Courts have taken, in partnership with the Chief Justice and the judiciary, to ensure that cases are conducted in line with Government and HSE guidelines, requirements and protocols. Launching the video virtually to staff this afternoon Angela Denning Chief Executive, Courts Services said:

As committed as we are to doing as much business as we can, our priority is the duty of care we have to staff and anyone entering our buildings. We are advising that only people with essential business should be coming to court during the pandemic.’

The video is part of the COVID-19 Response Management Teams Safety Management Programme to be finalised this month. The development of the programme has involved an extensive review of court buildings and how the business of the courts is coordinated, as well as collaborative work across the courts system. Speaking about the COVID-19 Response Management team’s work Ms. Denning added:

‘The courts are a unique set of public buildings and constitute for our staff and other court users a very unique workplace, therefore we need a custom-made health and safety programme in response to the Government’s recently released protocols and in keeping with best Health and Safety practice.’

For media queries please contact Gerry Curran at

+353 1 8886469 / +353 87 2458304
or by Email:
gerry.curran@courts.ie

8 May 2020: Courts Service COVID- 19 Update 

Courts will extend use of virtual remote court hearings, and organise more physical hearings in the coming weeks. Courtrooms are being laid out with physically distanced spaces. Cases will be listed at staggered times and distinct case types will be organised differently.

The Chief Justice has indicated that more use of Virtual Courts and the extended use of safe physical courts, with organised physical distance, will allow for an increased number of cases to be heard to in the coming weeks. As safety is paramount it will be necessary to ensure that all measures are in place before a significant increase in throughput can take place.

He said that "it is important to emphasise that the Courts Service has, for some time, been working on a range of both physical and organisational measures to enable a significant increase to take place in physical hearings.  Those measures are designed to maximise the safety of the environment in which physical hearings can be conducted.  The implementation of those measures will allow the presidents to plan for many more physical hearings".

The Chief Justice went on to say that these measures may well be in play until the second half of 2021. The measures he said, " important as they are, will not allow a throughput of cases on the scale which operated prior to restrictions being put in place.  It remains unrealistic to anticipate that all courtrooms in all courthouses will be able to operate at or near the level which existed prior to the crisis".

Even if additional suitable venues can be identified there will still be significant limitations.  It is for that reason that the use of remote hearings in those cases for which they are suitable, must remain an important part of the medium term solution".

Specific statements from the Chief Justice and the president of each court jurisdiction are published today, outlining what is to happen in each court.

Short details of each courts new arrangements with links to each statement in full are contained below.

The full text of the Chief Justice’s overview statement is contained at this link:  

General Statement of the Chief Justice

Angela Denning, CEO of the Courts Service has said that :

"The Courts Service has established a team comprising front line staff from across the courts to agree measures to be applied in every courtroom as health restrictions are eased and we increase the numbers of cases being heard."

She said that "working with the Presidents and judiciary in each court the Courts Service was organising increasing workload  in a cautious, conservative, safe and innovative way,  to allow access to justice whilst also maintaining social distance and safety".

"The Service has fitted out a prototype courtroom in Naas, designed to address safety concerns and social distancing requirements. Screens will be provided for Judges, staff and witnesses, along with floor markings, 2m distancing signage etc. These measures are already in some courtrooms".

Ms Denning announced that the Courts Service this week has created a new position and appointed a full time Health & Safety Officer whose responsibilities include reviewing the proposed measures to ensure that we are compliant with all necessary legislation and public health advice.

She announced that the Service is establishing a consultative user group to ensure that court users are involved in informing decisions.

Use of Virtual Remote Courts, and video conferencing in courts:

The use of video conferencing (in between prisons and courts) has dramatically increased to facilitate defendants in custody appearing in court via video conference for bail and remand hearings.  In April 2020 there were 5080 video conference calls between courts and prisons, representing an increase of 400% on the number of such calls in April 2019.

Many of these video calls would involve multiple cases so the number of cases and defendants dealt with in this manner would be far greater than the number of calls. This used existing courts ICT infrastructure.  Reducing the need for prisoners to travel to and from prisons to courts mitigated the risks associated with the spread of COVID -19 in the prison population.

Also using existing resources, 47 courts have been held remotely (Virtual Courts). Most of these were in the appellant courts in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, who dealt with call over lists, case management hearings, civil and criminal hearings in this manner. Many of the virtual sittings dealt with several or more matters.

Highlights and links to full statements made by the Presidents of each court can be found below:

District Court:

The President of the District Court, His Honour Judge Colin Daly, has announced that:

1. Parties with non-urgent cases are not required to attend court at this time.

2. The District Court will continue to hear urgent matters in all District Court Districts throughout the country as before, and will resume hearings of certain other urgent matters.

3. Urgent matters are now extended to include more areas in Criminal, Family, and Child Care Law.

In the area of Family Law the President announced changes for matters which can be dealt with include;

New applications for protection orders or interim barring orders and return hearings of interim barring order cases.

If safety order hearings are being adjourned interim protection orders will be extended to the new date.

Applications and hearings for breach of maintenance or access that have occurred during the emergency period or applications and hearings for temporary guardianship orders.

Remote call-overs and hearings may be conducted in some courts.

Consent orders that do not require the hearing of evidence may be applied for by email by the applicant’s solicitor exhibiting consent in writing from the respondent’s solicitor. Following consideration by an assigned Judge orders will issue from the Court Office as appropriate without the need for the parties or their legal representatives to attend court.

Civil Matters - All District Court Civil matters are at present considered to be non-urgent and will be adjourned generally with liberty to re-enter either on consent or on notice to the other party.

Solicitors are to inform clients that they do not need to attend where their case is a non-urgent matter.

Non-urgent cases will be adjourned, and parties will be informed of their new court dates by the Court Service by ordinary post or by their solicitor.

Statement of the President of the District Court

Circuit Court:

Some Jury Trials to resume in many venues in the Circuit Court in September 2020.

District Court Appeals: Custody cases to proceed on the adjourned date.  Non-custody cases will be listed for mention only on the adjourned date.  Parties are requested not to attend.  A new hearing date will be allocated and parties advised of same, except for the Northern Circuit where non-custody cases will be dealt with on the adjourned date, if possible.   Parties will be advised further on the Northern Circuit.  

Family Law Cases & Motions: Family law matters adjourned since March 2020 will be given a hearing date by the Court Office as soon as possible.  Consideration will be given to dealing with matters remotely where possible and appropriate. 

Civil Cases & Motions: Hearings which were adjourned since March will be given a hearing date by the Court Office as soon as possible.  All trials and motions lists will be on a staggered/time slot basis.  Parties are requested to attend no earlier than 5 minutes before their allocated time to ensure social distancing is adhered to.  No ex-parte applications will be permitted, urgent applications can be e-mailed to the appropriate Court Office, the office will ensure these matters are brought to the attention of the Judge

Statement of the President of the Circuit Court

High Court

The President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly has said that:

It will be possible to expand both the type and number of cases to be heard from Monday 18 May 2020, and that the High Court will sit throughout the Whit recess / vacation. He pointed out that

·     Three courts will be available for remote virtual hearings daily

·     Seven other courts in the Four Courts complex will be available for physical hearings daily.

·     Until further notice it will not  be possible to hear cases which involve oral testimony.

He also announced that eight additional case types and matters will be added to the urgent cases already being heard.

1. Insolvency matters both corporate and personal.

2. Judicial review applications including Strategic Infrastructure challenges.

3. Probate non contentious business.

4. All Family Law applications including adoption matters.

5. Commercial list cases.

6. Chancery list cases.

7. Non Jury list cases.

8. Criminal Asset Bureau cases.

Judgments will continue to be delivered electronically and since commencement of  this during the Covid restrictions the Court has delivered 71 Judgments.

Statement of the President of the High Court

Court of Appeal:

Mr Justice George Birmingham, President of the Court of Appeal has stated that:

The Court of Appeal will continue to hear and increase the number of appeals remotely and increase the numbers heard.

From Monday next, it is anticipated that there will be three virtual courts sitting. In each court, one or two appeals will be listed, depending on the expected duration of the hearing.

A number of Lists to Fix Dates for hearings/directions Lists, where directions are given to facilitate the hearing of cases in the list, will take place in the coming days and weeks.

Parties involved in an appeal, which it is felt would be suitable for remote hearing, are urged to add their case to one of those lists, which can be done through the Court of Appeal Office, with a view to having it assigned an early date.

The CCJ will facilitate the virtual remote hearings of Criminal appeals, Civil appeals with a Criminal or quasi-Criminal dimension, and the business that, ordinarily, would be conducted in the Court of Appeal building.

Statement of the President of the Court of Appeal

Supreme Court:

The Chief Justice on behalf of the Supreme Court has announced that A new practice direction operational from mid April introduced the issuing of a 'statement of case' setting out the Court’s understanding of the relevant facts and issues. The first three cases deploying that new procedure are due for hearing next week and the following week. 

Six cases have been identified for hearing in the weeks following with an individual judge designated in each case to ensure that the appeal will be made ready for a remote hearing under the new procedure. 

The parties have been contacted with a view to engaging in further case management to that end. 

Seven cases have been identified where it is hoped that measures can be put in place to ensure that they too can be made ready for hearing under the new procedure prior to the end of July. 

Consideration is also being given as to how the limited number of cases involving litigants in person should be managed. 

It is hoped that all cases in respect of which leave to appeal was granted before the end of April of this year will have been heard by the end of July.

Statement of the Chief Justice regarding the Supreme Court