Criminal jury trials to resume as courts plan expansion of hearings

Criminal jury trials to resume as courts plan expansion of hearings

Chief Justice Frank Clarke

Criminal jury trials are set to resume in the Central Criminal Court later this month and in Circuit Courts by late August as the courts aim to increase the number of hearings following the COVID-19 crisis, Chief Justice Frank Clarke has announced.

In a statement issued over the weekend, Ireland’s top judge said a “major effort is being made to ensure that types of cases which have not been conducted since the beginning of the crisis can return to hearings in the near future”.

However, he said the plans to expand hearings would require additional physical and IT resources and are “necessarily dependent on the Courts Service being able to source additional premises and/or provide the technology for a greater use of remote hearings when they are suitable”.

Criminal jury trials, for instance, will require two courtrooms to accommodate all of the people who are required to be present. In certain parts of the country, additional premises will be required to accommodate social distancing.

Meanwhile, the District Court will return “to as near a full service as it is possible to achieve” from 1 September 2020, with a detailed plan to be published by the president of the District Court within the next two weeks.

The Supreme Court is “likely to continue” to use remote hearings “for the foreseeable future”, Chief Justice Clarke said, and the number of cases coming to the court “will shortly return to normal”. All cases where appeal has been or will be granted before the end of July will be offered a date for hearing before the end of November, and all cases which are given leave to appeal during August and September will be offered a date for hearing before Christmas.

The Court of Appeal, which has heard some 125 appeals remotely since the start of the COVID-19 crisis and will hear around 50 more before the end of July, will sit throughout September to deal with appeals through a mix of remote hearings, hybrid hearings and physical hearings.

Mr Justice George Birmingham, president of the Court of Appeal, said: “The cases that will be listed on the civil side in September will, for the most part, be cases which had been listed earlier, but which were not in a position to proceed, because for one reason or another, it was felt that a remote hearing would not be suitable.

“On the criminal side, a number of cases have been given dates in October 2020. These were cases where October dates were requested in the belief that it was more likely that the appeal could proceed by way of a traditional physical hearing on a date in Michaelmas term or at a later stage.

“On the criminal side, it is envisaged that it will be possible to assign a date before the end of 2020 to every case where submissions have been filed by the moving party.”

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