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Supreme Court hears first case in a virtual courtroom using remote video technology

Other courts such as the High Court and the District Courts will roll out a similar initiative in the coming weeks.

Chief Justice Frank Clarke
Chief Justice Frank Clarke
Image: Sam Boal

THE SUPREME COURT has held a remote sitting today – the first in the State’s history – due to social distancing measures associated with the Covid-19 emergency.

All parties were present during the court’s proceedings via video call, while news reporters covering the proceedings observed screens in court rooms.

The pilot programme is expected to be rolled out to other courts including the High Court in the coming weeks, and other measures to allow individuals to attend court while still observing social distancing guidelines in the future are also being considered. 

Chief Justice Mr Frank Clarke today suggested “it will be the first of many in the coming weeks and months” and commended the Courts Service for its innovative approach to managing cases. 

“While other jurisdictions (countries) have started or announced the commencement of remote hearings in many cases they were coming from a significantly higher technology base than us,” he said.

“While remote hearings are an obvious focus of this morning and while such hearings are likely to prove suitable for most if not all cases in this courtand many in the Court of Appeal, it must be acknowledged that different considerations apply in trial.

“Remote hearings will be suitable for some types of proceedings in the High Court and a limited number of cases in the District and Circuit Courts. The court Presidents and the Courts Service are exploring ways in which to increase the number of cases which can be dealt with in physical hearings.”

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan welcomed the announcement by the Courts Service, while the Supreme Court conducted the short hearing this morning.

“The business of the courts is of fundamental importance and therefore today’s hearing is a very welcome development. I commend the Courts Service and everyone else involved,” he said. 

“This is the beginning of a new initiative and the Court of Appeal is due to also hold remote hearings this week.  Clearly remote sittings are more challenging and many of us are grappling with the diffculties inherent in needing to work closely together while staying physically apart.”

“I am pleased that so much innovation is taking place and we are now at a stage where remote hearings can allow the Courts to move through their important case work,” he added. 

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