NI: Jury trials to continue under latest Covid-19 restrictions
Jury trials and other courts and tribunals hearings will continue to be held following the imposition of new Covid-19 restrictions, Justice Minister Naomi Long has said.
The Northern Ireland Executive has announced a significant tightening of public health restrictions for a six-week period starting 26 December 2020.
Mrs Long has said the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS) is now “better equipped” to accommodate listed business than at the start of the first lockdown.
The minister said: “NICTS and the judiciary’s ability to deliver services will not be adversely impacted as it was when lockdown was originally imposed in March. Robust social distancing measures are in place in courtrooms, offices and public areas, as well as an enhanced cleaning regime and clear guidance being available for court users.
“Technology has been deployed for remote and hybrid hearings but some listed business, like jury trials, require physical hearings. Jury trials have, therefore, been held in six venues in Laganside, Antrim, Coleraine, Dungannon, Craigavon and Newry since August and courtrooms have also been reconfigured with glass and Perspex screens erected to allow proceedings to take place safely. Hand sanitation stations and social distancing signage have also been erected throughout the NICTS estate to guide users.
“People who are asked to take part in jury service should follow NICTS instructions on where they should gather safely. We also ask that no-one else comes to a court or tribunal venue unless they are specifically required to be there.
“Face coverings should be worn in public waiting areas and may be worn during proceedings, unless a judge directs an individual to remove them.
“Public safety has been a priority for NICTS, the judiciary and other justice partners right throughout this pandemic and they have worked hard to ensure court and tribunal proceedings can be conducted safely. That will remain the case in the weeks ahead, with the focus on ensuring that business will only proceed if it is safe to do so.”