Courts Service: Numbers attending court to be scaled back during coronavirus outbreak



The Courts Service of Ireland has announced measures to “scale back” the numbers attending court. The latest update, issued on Friday evening, is reproduced in full below.


The Courts Service has managed a very successful introduction of measures to scale back the work of the courts, which began today, and which resulted in a huge decrease in the numbers needed to be in court. We propose to continue to introduce further changes to scale back even further on the numbers attending court from Monday.

We have spent the day consulting with courts staff and judges to ascertain how the plans to date have worked and what else we can achieve to try and ensure a lessened risk from the Covid-19 virus.

Following on from the successful curtailment of numbers today, and following updated advice from the HSE, the Chief Justice and Presidents of each jurisdiction have organised further reductions in business. Our scenario planning and the reductions we achieved today already, will allow us introduce more social distancing arrangements from Monday.

Each change is taking account of the advice to create social distance and avoid over concentration of people in one room or place.

The changes will see only urgent cases, and cases not involving witnesses, etc. going ahead in the coming weeks.

This will free up judges to hear the cases which need to go ahead, in much emptier courtrooms across our estate.

Court offices will remain open, drop boxes are being provided for documents to be left in - thus lessening the need to queue and wait. Civil matters can be adjourned by consent via e-mail.

Please see the following statements of the Chief Justice and Presidents in respect of each court jurisdiction

The Supreme Court

The Chief Justice and members of the Court have agreed that given the developing COVID-19 situation and the need to focus on prevention of community spread of COVID-19 the following additional measures concerning the business of the Court will be implemented for the foreseeable future:

  1. The Court will adjourn on consent any appeal that is listed for hearing between now and the 3rd April next. The position will be reviewed at that time.
  2. New dates will be fixed for hearing next term or when the situation sufficiently improves.
  3. The court will adjourn any appeal where there is not consent to do so, unless particular urgency can be demonstrated. Parties who contend such urgency should set out their reasons in writing by email addressed to the Registrar at supremecourt@courts.ie.
  4. All such adjournment applications will be dealt with remotely and all communications should be addressed by email to the Registrar.
  5. To maintain the administration of justice in public all judgements will be delivered by a single judge and the parties will not be required to attend delivery.
  6. Copies of judgments will be published on www.courts.ie and will be made available to the parties and members of the press at the time of delivery.
  7. All case management issues will be dealt with remotely unless it is absolutely necessary that there be a hearing. All communications in this respect should also be addressed by email to the Registrar.
  8. The Office of the Supreme Court will remain open, parties and their representatives may also continue to communicate with the Office by telephone and by email and may also send necessary documentation by email or by post as required.
  9. The Chief Justice and members of the Court will continue their work on existing cases and prepare for those cases that are adjourned.

The Court of Appeal

The President and members of the Court have agreed that given the developing COVID-19 situation and the need to focus on preventing community spread of COVID-19 the following additional measures concerning the business of the Court will be implemented for the foreseeable future:

  1. The Court will adjourn on consent any appeal that is listed for hearing between now and the 3rd April, the end of the current legal term. This includes any call-over lists, lists to fix dates, and the directions/management lists.
  2. New dates will be fixed for hearing at the earliest possible available opportunity when the situation sufficiently improves.
  3. The court will adjourn any appeal where there is not consent to do so, unless particular urgency can be demonstrated. Parties who contend such urgency should set out their reasons in writing by email addressed to the Registrar at courtofappealcivil@courts.ie or courtofappealcriminal@courts.ie whichever applies.
  4. All such adjournment applications will be dealt with remotely and all communications should be addressed by email to the Registrar.
  5. If any judgments are to be delivered by the Court during this period the parties will not be required to attend. Copies of such judgments will be made available to the parties and members of the press at the time of delivery and will be published on www.courts.ie as soon as practicable thereafter.
  6. All case management issues will be dealt with remotely unless it is absolutely necessary that there be a hearing. All communications in this respect should also be addressed by email to the Registrar.
  7. The Office of the Court of Appeal will remain open, parties and their representatives may also continue to communicate with the Office by telephone and by email and may also send necessary documentation by email.
  8. The members of the Court will continue their work on existing cases and prepare for those cases that are adjourned.

The High Court

The President of the High Court has decided that given the developing Covid-19 situation and the need to focus on prevention of community spread of that virus there will be limited sittings of the High Court to deal with non criminal business.

The court will sit to deal with the following urgent matters:

  1. Habeas corpus
  2. Extradition
  3. Bail applications
  4. Injunctions and their enforcement
  5. Wardship matters
  6. Urgent judicial review applications

Bail applications and extradition hearings will be conducted by way of video link. These applications will be heard in the Criminal Courts of Justice.

No new witness actions will commence between now and the end of the current legal term. All such actions will be adjourned to a date to be notified to the parties next term. Cases at hearing will continue.

Actions and applications which do not involve witnesses will commence on the dates fixed. All common law motions listed for hearing on 16th March, 2020 are adjourned to a date to be notified to the parties.

The court will adjourn on consent any motions and actions that are listed for hearing between now and the end of term. Such adjournment applications will be dealt with remotely and all communications should be addressed by email to hcmotions@courts.ie. The subject line should include the record number of the case and the relevant List.

The several offices attached to the High Court will remain open at the appointed times.

Insofar as criminal business is concerned, no new trials will commence in the Central Criminal Court for the remainder of this term and all of next term. Trials at hearing will continue to their conclusion.

The Circuit Court

The President of the Circuit Court has decided that given the developing COVID-19 situation, the following measures concerning the business of the Court will be implemented:

  1. Criminal Cases
    1. Ongoing jury trials to continue to conclusion
    2. No new Jury trial will commence for the remained of this term.
    3. Custody Sentencing cases to be dealt with as usual or by video link depending on the application.
    4. Non-custody cases to be mentioned as usual and remanded to appear on date after 10th June 2020.
    5. Defendants’ Solicitors to inform their clients they need not attend if on bail. For unrepresented persons the Circuit Court offices will advise the litigants directly. Gardaí to be advised to caution the defendants of the adjourned date. Office of the DPP/defence solicitors to inform witness summonsed for Circuit Court matters (save for ongoing trials or sentences) that they do not need to attend. A Judge will be available to sit on each Circuit to hear urgent applications.
  2. District Court Appeals
    1. District Court Appeals to be remanded after 10th June 2020. A Judge sitting to hear urgent applications will remand/adjourn the district court appeals list to a date after 10th June 2020. The Circuit Court offices will advise parties of adjourned dates. A Judge will be available to sit on each Circuit to hear urgent applications.
  3. Family Law
    1. Family Law lists will be adjourned to a date after 20th April 2020. Parties to be advised of the adjourned dates by the Circuit Court offices. The Circuit Family Law Courts will, on a temporary basis, accept consent adjournment applications by email where both parties email independently and they will be notified of the adjourned date by email to the email addresses from which they were received. A Judge will be available to sit on each Circuit to hear urgent applications.
  4. Civil Cases and Motions
    1. Civil lists will be adjourned to a date after 20th April 2020. The Circuit Civil Law Courts will, on a temporary basis, accept consent adjournment applications by email where both parties email independently and they will be notified of the adjourned date by email to the email addresses from which they were received. A Judge will be available on each Circuit to hear urgent applications.

Further and detailed arrangements will be made after consultation with all stakeholders.

The District Court

The President of the District Court has decided that given the developing COVID-19 situation and the need to focus on prevention of community spread of COVID-19 the following additional measures concerning the business of the Court will be implemented for the foreseeable future:

  1. Parties with non-urgent cases are no longer required to attend court.
  2. The District Court will continue to hear urgent matters only in all District Court Districts throughout the country.
  3. Urgent matters are:
    1. Criminal Law
      1. Cases where the accused is in custody and cases where people are charged with new offences. It does not include criminal cases where the accused is on bail or is not in custody.
      2. Remands where the accused is in custody should be dealt with by video-link wherever possible.
    2. Family Law
      1. New applications for protection orders or interim barring orders and return hearings of interim barring order cases. If safety order hearings are being adjourned interim protective orders will be extended to the new date.
    3. Child Care Law
      1. Extension of interim care orders and emergency care orders and exceptional or urgent interim care orders.
    4. If your case does is not included in the description of urgent matters above, then it is a non-urgent matter and parties do not need to attend court.
    5. Solicitors are to inform clients that they do not need to attend where their case is a non-urgent matter.
    6. Non-urgent cases will be adjourned, and parties will be told of their new court dates by ordinary post or by their solicitor or barrister where one is present.
  4. Civil Matters
    1. All District Court Civil matters are considered to be non-urgent and will be adjourned to a new date. Parties will be told of their new court dates by ordinary post or by their solicitor or barrister where one is present.
    2. A case which does not come into the defined urgent category can be treated as urgent if a good case can be made. A party can email the relevant court office setting out the reasons why the case should be considered urgent. This should be on notice to the other side who must be given a chance to set out their position.

These measures will be reviewed at the end of the legal term on the 12th April 2020 or earlier if needed.



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