The Government has agreed Ireland’s plan for the next and final phase of the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic COVID-19: Reframing the Challenge, Continuing Our Recovery and Reconnecting. We will enter a final phase on 22 October, which is likely to last until at least next Spring. This phase will see the majority of legal restrictions lifted and replaced by guidance and advice across the country. The emphasis is on personal responsibility with sector specific measures applying to ensure a safe environment. Each of us is expected to take simple measures to protect ourselves and others, such as staying home and self-isolating when symptomatic, observing good respiratory and hand hygiene, and wearing a face covering.
In relation to many aspects of daily living, people can decide for themselves whether, in light of Covid-19 considerations, they are willing to participate in different indoor activities such as going to the gym, dining or attending other social events. People attending court, be they parties, jurors, witnesses or legal representatives, are required to attend. Thousands of people, all with very different Covid-19 vaccination status and risk profile will, in the coming months, be obliged to attend courts. This may impose Covid-19 health risks for some where public health advice, for those who have not been fully vaccinated, is to avoid or exercise very high levels of caution in high-risk environments.
Courts Service measures
The Government plans and guidance recognise that different industries and sectors will need to adopt specific approaches which best suit the nature of their work. In response to the Government approach and public health advice, the Courts Service, in collaboration with the Judiciary, will take specific measures to ensure that it continues to provide a safe environment for all court users and jurors and for all of those working on its premises during Michaelmas Term 2021.
Anyone attending Court during the upcoming Legal Term is asked to adhere to the following guidelines:
1. Anyone with symptoms of Covid 19 or who has been advised that they are a close contact of someone with Covid 19 should not attend at court premises.
2. Everyone entering a Courts Service premises, save for medical or other welfare considerations, is expected to wear a face covering.
3. The Courts Service has implemented a robust and successful Covid-19 Safety Management Programme to ensure that Courtrooms and all public spaces in court buildings are kept as safe as possible. This programme recognises that the risk of transmission in a courtroom setting increases with the length of time a person is present indoors and the number of people in attendance over that period. For this reason, some physical distancing measures will remain, and capacity numbers will remain in place for all courtrooms and some other spaces within court buildings until further notice. The capacity of each court will be posted on the door of the court.
4. All court users are expected to observe good respiratory and hand hygiene.
5. The use of staggered lists, videolink to prisons and remote callovers and courts will continue to assist with management of footfall in buildings.
6. The Courts Service will continue to use dedicated staff to manage the movement of persons on our premises.
7. Bar rooms will be available for use. Consultation rooms may be available in certain court buildings once they have been risk assessed by local management and found to be safe to open. It is important when using these rooms that occupants comply with all advised Covid-19 safety measures.
8. Jury empanelment will continue in offsite venues where appropriate; jurors will be assigned additional seating in the courtroom to allow for social distancing and additional jury deliberation space will be provided in courthouses.
9. Lastly, the Courts Service and Judiciary are seeking the assistance of practitioners in the following:
- Please agree in advance as many issues and as much evidence as possible in order to shorten hearings and avoid witnesses attending court unnecessarily.
- Where possible, consultations in relation to upcoming proceedings should take place in the days or weeks preceding the hearing date assigned to a case and should take place otherwise than on Courts Service premises so that the safety of those required to attend court on any given day can be best protected.
- In relation to witness cases, hybrid hearings should be availed of, wherever possible.
Further Information/ Updates
For queries relating to Jury Summons please contact the number provided on your summons and refer to the Courts Service twitter account @CourtsServiceIE.
Courts updates will be provided as and when available, please consult www.courts.ie:
· the Covid-19 Notice pages for regional updates
· general Covid-19 updates