Today I had a meeting with members of the judiciary, Courts service, and An Garda Síochána to discuss how District Court matters are to proceed in Galway.
Firstly, please see below the attached notice from the President of the District Court dealing with how matters are to proceed from the 18th May 2020. Please note that the scope of urgent matters is expanded somewhat, so practitioners should review these new guidelines.
In light of these new guidelines, please note the following specific for Galway Courts
- Criminal Hearings in the District Court
During the crisis, 4 hearings will be fixed for each Monday and each Wednesday in line with the criteria in the President’s notice. It may be necessary to schedule some hearings for 2pm so ensure that the public do not turn up to Court all at once.
The Court Presenters Office will email John F Martin & Company with the list of hearings that will be able to proceed in light of the new guidelines. These will be forwarded on to the various practitioners, who should then contact the Court Presenters Office to notify them whether a case is proceeding or not. The first 4 confirmed cases will be set down for hearing.
Under the new guidelines, clients entering a guilty plea will have to attend Court in any event to have their sentence dealt with.
Please confirm instructions with clients as far out as possible. The Judges do not want last minute pleas taking up spaces that could have been used for a hearing.
We know this is not a perfect system, and it has its flaws, but we are trying to limit the necessity to attend Court. We will refine it as we move forward.
- August Sittings
As usual, the vacation sittings in August will be each Tuesday. It has been decided that two criminal hearings will be listed on each of those days, as long as they fall within the current guidelines.
- Production of documents and taking instructions ahead of time in Criminal matters
Judge Cashin and Judge Keane have asked that we should try and take an instruction well ahead of dates so that the lists can run smoothly. Also we should get all documentation (such as motor tax and insurance documents) from them ahead of time.
In response to this, I pointed out that our offices are not set up to take instructions from clients. We cannot have them in to review CCTV. Secondly our clients’ inability to produce documents in a timely manner is generally what gets them into trouble in the first place.
- Family Law Virtual Call over
On Thursday the 21st May 2020 a virtual call over will be held for the District Court Family List. This is a pilot scheme, and all practitioners are asked to participate fully. If successful, this should alleviate the necessity for many members of the public and practitioners to attend at the Family Law list. There will be a test of the system on Wednesday 20th May, so hopefully there will be an update after that.
Please note that it is envisaged that CFA matters and Licencing matters will be carried out through virtual lists so participation and feedback will be very helpful.
- Civil matters & Infant Rulings
All civil matters are being adjourned.
However, Judge Keane and Judge Cashin have said that they are willing to deal with infant rulings where the infant is not needed.
If you wish to have an infant ruling listed, please contact the Court office. Only the practitioners and the next friend are to be present. The infant is not to be present. If the infant would need to be present (for example to show the Jude a scar or similar issue) the matter cannot be listed. Judge Keane has also said that she will take these applications on Criminal Law days.
- Extra Dates
Extra dates have been added to the diary for the 2nd and 3rd of July. These are primarily for Family Law matters, but Judge Cashin has indicated she will hear other matters. Please contact the Court office if you want something listed for those dates.
- Practitioners non-attendance at Court
An issue has been made that practitioners are not attending Court without informing the Court that they will not be there. If you are not going to attend Court, please contact the Court office so a note can be put on the file for the sitting Judge, or contact a colleague who you know will be in attendance.
- Physical measures in the Courts
Brendan McDonald has informed us that new signage will be erected to advise on social distancing. Furthermore, screens are to be added in the Court room to provide further protection. It is also envisaged going forward that there will be a member of staff of the Courts Service at the entrance to make sure only people with business enter the Court building. Hopefully this will aid with social distancing. Court services are aware that there are concerns regarding the weeks that the Circuit Court propose to sit, as this may well cause problems with the number of people seeking to gain access to the Courthouse.
I hope the above helps, and clarifies some issues we have all been having.