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Courts to increase number of video sittings to overcome Covid-19 restrictions

Hearings have been scaled back in recent weeks following the introduction of physical distancing guidelines.

Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THE COURTS SERVICE will increase the number of remote hearings it holds via video link in the coming weeks as restrictions relating to the coronavirus pandemic continue.

The Chief Justice Mr Frank Clarke confirmed today that the Courts Service had progressed in its attempts to increase its capacity to hear cases remotely.

Hearings have been significantly scaled back in recent weeks following the introduction of physical distancing guidelines aimed at combating the spread of Covid-19.

A number of urgent cases continued to be heard, but the Chief Justice said the Courts Service was now seeking to allow more cases to be progressed by being heard remotely.

“The systems trial of the platform designed to facilitate remote hearings has been successfully completed,” he said in a statement.

He also explained that the Courts Service will begin a series of ‘mock’ hearings across various court jurisdictions and with the assistance of solicitors, barristers and court staff to test the capabilities of remote hearing over the next week to 10 days.

“If those hearings are conducted satisfactorily it is hoped that remote hearings of actual cases will begin early in the next legal term,” Mr Justice Clarke continued.

“It is envisaged that the first remote hearings will take place in the appellate courts and a gradual roll out to other jurisdictions could follow, building on the experience gained.”

However, the Chief Justice warned that remote hearings would not be suitable for all cases and that the ability of each court to utilise the facility would vary.

He also noted that the capacity to deal with large numbers of remote hearings simultaneously would be constrained by Courts Service infrastructure.

“For that reason it will be for the president of each court to determine just how the facility will work in their own court,” he said.

“It is intended that each president will, in the coming days, issue guidance or practice directions which will give details of how remote hearings will operate in their court.”

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