The Courts Service is to increase virtual hearings and extend the use of physical distancing in courtrooms to allow more cases to be dealt with in the coming weeks.

Outlining plans for each court jurisdiction, the service said it had appointed a full time Health and Safety Officer to ensure ongoing compliance with public health advice.

Measures employed in courtrooms will include screens for judges, staff and witnesses along with floor markings to assist with physical distancing. The increased use of video link hearings will also be used.

The Chief Justice Frank Clarke said it remained "unrealistic to anticipate that all courtrooms in all courthouses would be able operate at or near the level which existed prior to the coronavirus crisis".

He also said the measures "may well be in play" until the second half of next year. Mr Justice Clarke said it was therefore important that the use of remote hearings in suitable cases remained part of the medium term solution.

A new practice directon for the Supreme Court, introduced in April, will see six cases identified for hearing in the coming weeks. Individual judges have been assigned to each case to ensure it is ready for a remote hearing. A further seven have been identified for possible hearing before the end of July.

The Court of Appeal will continue to hear and increase the number of appeals remotely and increase the numbers heard.

From Monday next, it is anticipated that there will be three virtual courts sitting. In each court, one or two appeals will be listed, depending on the expected duration of the hearing.

The CCJ will facilitate the virtual remote hearings of Criminal appeals.

The High Court which has already started some remote hearings is to increase the type and number of cases being heard. It will also sit through the usual ten day Whit vacation which normally sees the courts break for ten days.

Three High Courts will be available for remote hearings each day and seven other courts in the Four Courts will be available for physical distance hearings, according to the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly.

However he said it would not be possible to hear cases involving oral testimony from witnesses, he said.

Some jury trials in the Circuit Court are to resume in September of this year.
District Court Appeals will proceed where defendants are in custody. Family Law cases will be given a hearing date as soon as possible and may be dealt with remotely if possible.

Civil cases in the Circuit Court which were adjourned since March will be given a hearing date as soon as possible.  

District Courts throughout the country will continue to hear urgent cases and have extended the list of urgent cases to include more areas of criminal, family and childcare law. Parties with non urgent cases are not required to attend court.
 
All civil cases in the District Court are considered non urgent and will be adjourned. Full details of the arrangements for each court have been published on the Courts Service website.