Courts Service coronavirus update (11 March 2020)
The Courts Service of Ireland issued the below update on coronavirus yesterday afternoon, which Irish Legal News is republishing in full.
The Courts Service continues to follow the instructions set out in the HSE’s official communications on the coronavirus.
Courthouses will remain open to all court users and this will remain the case until the official advice is to do otherwise.
It is not possible at this stage to outline the planned response to every public health scenario. However, scenario planning for various potential situations has been undertaken for both national and local responses. Plans are in place for various situations which might arise. We will release arrangements in a timely fashion if and when a situation arises re: the COVID-19 virus and changes to court hearings. All such changes will be advertised on www.courts.ie.
We are working closely with the presidents of all jurisdictions to develop other appropriate contingency plans to have in place arrangements to allow courts to sit to deal with urgent family, criminal and civil matters.
Ongoing discussions are taking place between the Courts Service and other justice agencies to make suitable arrangements in the event of public health restrictions being put on the operation of courts on a regional or nationwide basis.
A meeting has been arranged for tomorrow (Thursday 12 March) with representatives of the legal professions to discuss the issues.
We have doubled our capacity for judges and staff to work remotely - plans and increased capacity will allow 450 people to do so. We are developing plans to ensure that the system of family law maintenance payments and other vulnerable users, can continue to be provided.
We are ensuring clear communications channels are in place. We have organised our website www.courts.ie as a single place of contact for all information - in the event that changes to court hearings might take place. We will use social media to promote use of this channel.
We have multiple video enabled courtrooms which facilitate custody hearings to take place directly with prisons - thus minimising the need for the mass movement of prisoners to and from courts.
Each area and each situation will be different as regards the responses needed, such as cancelling courts, transferring cases, using video technology, closing offices, remotely working, and supporting Courts Services in the event of any closure.
This week has seen the Courts Service at every level - from national, to regional, to local - develop options for the various situations which might arise.
We are not publicising detailed contingency plans. Contingency plans by their nature are highly operational and are subject to change given the multiple scenarios that are possible. We will publicise changes and plans to courts sittings in a timely manner, as each situation arises which requires changes to courts or services.