Court of Appeal president directs court users to wear face coverings
People attending the courts have been asked to wear face coverings by the most senior judges in Ireland.
The direction was given by the president of the Court of Appeal today, and follows a similar direction to politicians using Leinster House and the Convention Centre yesterday in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Reading a statement prepared by the Chief Justice and the presidents of each court, Mr Justice George Birmingham told a remote hearing of the three-judge Court of Appeal that everyone attending court should wear a face covering, although their use was not mandatory at present. He noted that some people may not be able to wear a face covering for health reasons.
“All persons attending any court venue are expected to strictly comply with current public health guidance concerning COVID-19,” Mr Justice Birmingham stated.
“Physical distancing (currently two metres) should be maintained at all times and all attending should engage in frequent hand washing and comply with respiratory etiquette.”
While 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”.
He added: “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.”
However, Mr Justice Birmingham warned: “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.”
He also advised: “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.”
He said his remarks, made in advance of an appeal brought by an “internet troll” against a three-year sentence for the online harassment of six female journalists and writers, would be read “routinely” before all upcoming court hearings.