Judges but no jurors as courts reopen today

Court operations will resume on a phased basis across the island today with strict guidelines and health protocols.

Acting director of client services, communications and information in the Court Administration Division Kadiesh Fletcher says 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 today.

According to Fletcher a health protocols for the entire court system has been developed and implemented, based on recommendations by the Ministry of Health and Wellness; these will guide the daily operations of the courts.

Among other things, the health protocol stipulates that there will be no ceremonial opening for any circuit court; there will be no trials involving a jury from June 1 to July 31, in any of the circuit courts and; trials which 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.

Fletcher also announced that all jurors summoned for service in the aforementioned circuits are discharged without risk of penalty.

She added that guilty pleas will be accommodated and criminal trials will not involve more than two defendants.

“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,” said Fletcher.

“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.

“Additionally, persons entering court buildings will be required to wear face covering, which should cover their noses and mouths; submit to temperature checks by use of a hand-held thermometer and to sanitise hands using the alcohol-based solvent provided at the entrance to each court building,” added Fletcher.

She underscored that these measures will be strictly enforced.

“We urge members of the public to comply with the protocols in accessing the courts during this COVID-19 pandemic in an effort to contain the virus. We also crave your understanding during this challenging period,” said Fletcher.

For more information members of the public can visit the websites: www.supremecourt.gov.jm; www.cad.gov.jm; and www.parishcourt.gov.jm.

Persons can also call the judiciary’s emergency call centre at 888-429-5269, 876-908-0138, 876-754-3662 or toll free at 888-429-5269.

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