Wed | Jul 8, 2020

No ceremonial opening of circuit courts or trial by jury, as courts open on a phased basis tomorrow

Published:Sunday | May 31, 2020 | 12:00 AM
Members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force on parade in front the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston during the official opening on April 25, 2019. Looking on is Justice Lorna Shelly Williams. There will be no ceremonial opening of the circuit courts amid COVID-19 restrictions (file).

There will be no ceremonial opening or trials by jury in circuit courts, as the nation's court system imposes restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19, amid tomorrow's commencement of a phased reopening of courts across the country.

In a release to the press, the Court Administration Division said sittings of the circuit courts, the Circuit Court Division of the Gun Court for St Catherine and Clarendon, the Western Regional Gun Court, and the High Court Division of the Gun Court for Clarendon will resume tomorrow, June 1.

It said a health protocol has been developed and implemented, based
on recommendations by the Ministry of Health to guide the daily operations of
the nation's courts.

This includes no ceremonial opening of any circuit court and no trial by jury in the circuit courts up to July 31. Trials that can be heard without a jury will proceed as scheduled, provided they can be conducted while observing the health protocols issued by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Court Administration Division says. 

It said all jurors summoned for service have been discharged without
risk of penalty. Guilty pleas will be accommodated; and criminal trials will not involve more than two defendants.

"Efforts will be made, as far as possible, given the resource limitations, the need to preserve
security and, the rules relating to privacy of certain matters, to facilitate public access to
proceedings in open court by virtual technology," the Court Administration Division said.

"While we recognise the fundamental principle of open justice, and continue to seek to give
effect to this principle in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become necessary
to restrict access to all court buildings to only those persons with matters before the courts
until further notice," it added.  

Persons entering court buildings will also be required to wear a face covering that shields their noses and mouths. Persons must also submit to temperature checks by use of a
handheld thermometer and must also clean their hands using the alcohol-based solvent provided at the entrance of each court building.

It said these measures will be strictly enforced.

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