Courts will still hear emergency cases


LAWYERS have been told that arrangements in place for emergency matters in court as outlined in practice directions issued on March 17 remain in place.

In a notice to its members, the Law Association said the emergency procedures for court cases still applied.

These include the use of telephone and video technology for hearings except emergency cases, domestic violence matters, maintenance applications, cases under the proceeds of Crime Act, and urgent applications until April 20.

Court matters in the magistrates’ courts were adjourned to dates from April 20-May 19, or unless deemed fit for urgent hearing.

Sittings in the various High Courts were also suspended.

On Thursday, the Judiciary announced all courts would be closed from Friday, until it reconfigured its operations in keeping with Government’s announcement that all “non-essential activities” will be stopped until April 15. This is part of stronger “stay-at-home” measures to curb the spread of covid19 in TT.

“We are therefore putting in place measures to enable judges, judicial officers and staff to work remotely where possible to ensure continued access to the courts for urgent applications and hearings during the emergency period,” the Judiciary’s statement said.

It promised to give further guidance on March 31.

On Friday, National Security Minister Stuart Young gave details of the stay-at-home orders to take effect from March 30 until April 15.

The Judiciary and legal services were included in the list of essential services allowed to be out during the shutdown period.

Only on Monday, one judge asked aboutf the policy for judges and staff, since their teams were out to work at their desks and there was no formal communication to judges or their staff.

The judge was told in e-mails among judges that while there was no written policy on leave of absence for staff, and the circumstances were fluid and developing daily with regard to the coronavirus pandemic.

The judge was also reminded that the practice directions issued by the Chief Justice were aimed at reducing the number of staff and the public at the courts, and it was left to individual judges to set out their plan for staff attendance while court sittings were suspended.

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