JUDGE Desmond Zaidan has criticised the lack of hand sanitising facilities at the courthouse in Naas, which he said had been requested.
Speaking during the sitting of Naas District Court on Thursday 12 March, he remarked that there was none in the building and described it as “unacceptable”. In making his point, the judge held aloft a drinking cup which he said contained hand sanitiser.
“We’re all being exposed to risks,” he said. “There is no protective measures, basic protective measures.”
Concerns from court practitioners about the facilities – or lack thereof – in the court were also raised during that session, while one defendant aged in his seventies and due to appear that day didn’t attend court due to his age and respiratory issues.
Judge Zaidan also noted that he had taken the initiative – rather than defendants entering the courtroom en masse last Thursday, they had to wait outside in the lobby and were called inside in their ones and twos.
Beginning on Friday, the Courts Service introduced measures to scale back the number and size of court hearings. At District Court level, parties with non-urgent cases aren’t required to attend court. District Courts will continue to hear urgent matters only, such as Criminal Law cases where the accused is in custody and cases where people are charged with new offences; new applications for protection orders or interim barring orders and return hearings of interim barring order cases (under Family Law); and, under Childcare Law, the extension of interim care orders and emergency care orders and exceptional or urgent interim care orders. Non-urgent cases will be adjourned and parties informed of their new court dates by post or by their solicitor or barrister where one is present.
In the Circuit Court, ongoing jury trials for criminal cases will continue to their conclusion, with no new trials to commence for the remainder of the current term. Custody sentencing cases will be dealt with as usual or by video link, with non-custody cases to be mentioned and remanded to appear on a date after 10 June 2020. Defendants’ solicitors will inform their clients that they needn’t attend if on bail while, for those who aren’t represented, Circuit Court offices will advise the litigants directly.
District Court appeals will be remanded until after 10 June, Family Law lists will be adjourned to after 20 April, and Civil lists will be adjourned to a date after 20 April also. For the latter two, consent adjournment applications will be temporarily accepted by email where both parties email independently, while judges will be available to hear urgent applications for all three.
The High Court will sit to deal with urgent matters including extradition, bail applications and the enforcement of injunctions, with bail applications and extradition hearings conducted via video link. The Court of Appeal will adjourn – on consent – any appeal listed for hearing between now and 3 April with new dates to be fixed at the earliest possible opportunity. It will also adjourn any appeal where there is not consent to do so unless ‘particular urgency’ can be demonstrated.
Similar measures are to be taken by the Supreme Court. Full details of all arrangements can be viewed on the Courts Service website.
On Thursday, the Courts Service noted that its contingency planning group is continuously reviewing and updating plans. Additional sanitisation of public offices and courtrooms is being undertaken each day while hygiene supplies for public offices and hand sanitisers for public areas are being installed.
“The Service is very aware of its responsibility to limit the scope of any threats to health which large gatherings may pose: but we are also aware that arrangements must be respectful of people’s rights,” it explained. “Those who are due to visit courts and practitioners are reminded to check notices each evening on www.courts.ie and the legal diary.”