Categorized | Featured, National News

Virus Stalls Court Cases


As COVID-19 fears increase, Chief Justice Sir Brian Moree said courts will attempt to minimize in-person hearings by utilizing video conferencing, video applications, telephone calls and disposition on written submissions for court hearings.

The decision to minimize in-person hearings is a part of The Bahamas Judiciary’s protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

During a press conference yesterday, Sir Brian said if an in-person hearing is needed and unavoidable, the attendance in the court will be limited to persons who are only required to be present and at least three feet of distance will be maintained between people at all times and the court duration will be limited as much as possible.

Sir Brian also explained what would happen if someone who is actually in quarantine had to attend court and how justices are instructed to act.

“I’ve asked all of them to be governed first and foremost by our consideration of minimizing in-person hearings so we will always examine alternatives ranging from the formal video conferencing, to laptop video conferencing, to old fashioned telephone calls,” Sir Brian said.

“And that’s going to be first alternative.  When that cannot happen, the judicial officer whether an in-person hearing can be done under the social distancing polices that we have or if not, the matter will have to be adjourned. We’re not going to do any non-essential judicial work which would seriously put at risk the health and well-being of any of the persons involved in the system.”

Sir Brian also announced that justices will not be travelling until April 14.

“The way the circuits work, is that from time to time throughout the year and it could be twice a year, it could be three times a year, it’s not that often. Circuit magistrates go on circuit to these islands where there is no resident magistrate for the court,” he said.

“In some cases, this temporary suspension will not affect those islands at all because there will be no circuits currently planned during the next two, three, four weeks. In those cases where a stipendiary circuit magistrate was scheduled to travel, it just means that now that’s going to have to happen later in the year, once life settles down a bit. So I don’t think in the first instance that will cause a major problem.”

The Magistrate’s Court will also not be taking on new cases until March 30.

If the Supreme Court has any new trials that cannot be done via the social distancing protocol, the matter will be adjourned until April 14.

Sir Brian added that the fourth and final stage in their protocol would be a total lockdown, but he hopes that the situation will not escalate to that point.

He said COVID-19 needs to be monitored closely and as situations develop the judiciary will respond accordingly.

In addition, some of the protocols implemented for this first phase of the court’s mitigation are enhanced cleaning regiments, hand sanitizing stations at strategic locations in courts, increased vigilance and control at entry points of court buildings and the adherence to social distancing policies.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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