21 July 2020
Update from the Office of the LCJ on recovery of court business
The following update provides information about the latest phase of the gradual and incremental recovery of court business. This includes the start of a process to increase the volume and range of cases being dealt with. NICTS has carried out risk assessments to determine the number of people who can be present in court whilst complying with the Executive and Public Health Agency guidance.
It has published information on its website about security, social distancing and cleaning of court buildings during the Covid-19 pandemic. We are working with NICTS with a view to further moves which will continue to see additional recovery of business. Courts will aim to undertake as much business as possible remotely. Members of the public and legal representatives should not attend court unless specifically required.
Jury trials will resume in Laganside Courts from 19 August 2020. Arrangements for trials in other Crown Court venues are being planned for September and further detail will be issued shortly.
- High Court: Deprivation of Liberty Orders
The annual review of existing Deprivation of Liberty Orders will resume in September 2020. From September, the Trusts/Directorate of Legal Services should begin to contact the Office of Care and Protection Patients’ Office (OCP@courtsni.gov.uk) to request the review and put the other parties on notice. If any Deprivation of Liberty matter requires an urgent review the moving party can apply now by submitting Form FCI1 to the Patient’s Office. If other parties are involved the person making the application must at the same time place the other parties on notice of their application.
The Recorder of Belfast has published a Protocol for the listing of Civil Bills for hearing by county court judges. Listing will commence from 3 August 2020. Judges will determine when the case will be heard based on the information held on the court files. The initial listings will cover cases that had been previously listed for hearing in March, April, May and June 2020. On receipt of the notification of hearing, each solicitor should provide the information required by paragraphs 4(1) and (b) of the Protocol and complete Form CIV1. The subject line of the email should state “Belfast County Court Pilot for Civil Bills”. Every effort should be made to agree evidence avoiding the necessity to call witnesses and the Form should state how many people will be participating and whether they will be present or remote. Every effort should be made to agree evidence avoiding the necessity to call witnesses. On receipt of the information and Form CVI1, the judge will determine how the case will be heard. A copy of the Recorder’s Protocol and Form CIV1 are linked in this paragraph.
- Assessments of Damages and Minor’s Approvals
The Presiding District Judge will list Assessments of Damages and Minor’s Approvals in Laganside Courts commencing 11 August 2020. On receipt of the notification of hearing, each solicitor should submit Form CIV2 by email to Belfast Civil Court Office (firstname.lastname@example.org) within five working days. The subject line of the email should state “Belfast County Court Pilot for Assessment of Damages and Minor’s Approvals”. The Presiding District Judge will determine how the case will be heard on the basis of the information provided.
A dedicated court for new summonses issued by the Public Prosecution Service has commenced in Laganside Courts with effect from 6 July 2020 for Ballymena, Antrim, Ards and Downpatrick cases and in Lisburn from 23 July for Lisburn cases (PPS Belfast and Eastern Regions). Preparations for the issue of new summonses for other courts (PPS Western and Southern Regions) are underway and will commence from 20 July. Defendants should not generally attend court unless directed to do so. Instead they have been advised by the PPS to check with their solicitor or the relevant court office in advance of the listed date as to whether they are required to attend and which court venue they should attend to take into consideration the allocation listed above.
- Family Proceedings Court – Belfast
With effect from 20 July 2020, the Family Proceedings and Domestic Proceedings Courts will recommence listing business in Laganside Court (courtroom to be confirmed).
A new daily Summons Sentencing Court will commence in Laganside Courts with effect from 22 July 2020. The Court will deal with matters which can be sentenced without the defendant needing to be physically present in court or the need for a pre-sentence Report. Guidance for this court have been published on the Covid-19 page of the JudiciaryNI website. Cases will be brigaded by solicitor/solicitors’ firm in time slots allocated by the court office. Sightlink 20 will be used for this court and Court 6 in Laganside Courts will be the physical location for the sentencing court should a legal representative need to appear in person. The Legal representative must be on Sightlink 20 (or Court 6 if appearing in person) by the time allocated to them. If not, the case will be adjourned.