Judge hopes for resumption of civil jury trials in New Year



A High Court judge has said he hopes to have civil jury trials up and running in the New Year.

Mr Justice Bernard Barton, who presides over the High Court civil jury trials, made the comments on Thursday after acknowledging that no civil jury trials will take place this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Justice Barton said that next February will mark a full 12 months since the last High Court civil jury action was heard.

However, the judge said he wanted to assure all parties that every step possible will be taken to ensure that jury trials will resume when the next legal term commences in January.

He added that he wanted to make it clear that the international health emergency would not be used as a reason to abolish civil jury trials,

“Not on my watch,” Mr Justice Barton said.

The judge made his comments during Thursday’s remote call over of jury trials which have been backed up as a result of the pandemic.

He accepted there was a large degree of uncertainty remains due to the pandemic, but hoped that three, or possibly four weeks will be set aside for civil jury trials next term. The health and well-being of witnesses, jurors, practitioners and court staff was paramount, Mr Justice Barton said.

He added that steps will be taken so that the jury trials, which largely deal with defamation actions or allegations of assault against members of An Garda Siochana, can proceed in the safest manner possible.

The judge also said that as an interim step the court had given parties the option this term of having jury trials heard by a judge only. However, this has not been possible due to the level 5 restriction being put in place.

The only cases that could possibly be heard between now and next terms, he said, were ones of extreme urgency.

Aodhan O’Faolain, Ireland International News Agency Ltd.



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