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Public banned from courts over coronavirus

The public has been banned from the courts over the coronavirus crisis.

Alexandra Wheatley, the Supreme Court Registrar, said yesterday that only people involved in cases, the media and the parents and guardians of children would be allowed in the courts.

She said: “Observers or supporters will not be allowed in the courtroom.”

Ms Wheatley added: “Members of the public shall not loiter or remain in any court unless they are waiting to be heard in court proceedings or are awaiting assistance from a court associate.”

The swearing of affidavits, certification of document copies and criminal record checks have also been suspended until further notice.

The news was posted on the doors of the Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building court complex and sent to lawyers.

The notice also warned that Supreme Court hearings will be “limited”.

Ms Wheatley said: “Lawyers are encouraged to strongly consider whether matters listed for a substantive hearing or trial over the course of the upcoming four weeks may be relisted for hearing at another date.

“Parties should make every effort to seek an agreement as it relates to matters concerning case management and to file a consent order to that effect, thus avoiding the need for parties to appear.”

The Supreme Court will also stagger cases to be heard in Chambers to limit the number of people in the court.

Magistrates' Court cases will also be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Supreme Court Registrar said the court would consider requests for adjournment on health grounds.

The registrar said: “The court should be made aware of such requests as soon as practicable before the scheduled date.

“No new matters or enforcement proceedings shall be filed or scheduled unless the urgency of the matter requires it such as domestic violence protection order applications, bail applications or child protection matters.

“Lawyers, parties or witnesses in court proceedings should not expect that their matters will be heard or will have a return/mention date scheduled unless the urgency of the matter requires such.”

People who visit Magistrates' Court to pay fines, child support or debt judgments should go straight to the cashier's window and leave as fast as possible and were asked to pay by card rather than cash.

The notice also instructed people who attend court to use hand sanitiser and said the Government had increased its efforts to clean the courts building.

Ms Wheatley said: “With the increasing worldwide concern regarding the spread of the coronavirus, it is imperative that the judiciary implement precautionary measures so as to ensure the health, safety and welfare of members of the public who interface with the courts of Bermuda, as well as court staff.”

Larry Mussenden, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said he expected the Supreme Court to reschedule the next two jury trials.

Mr Mussenden added that his office backed Ms Wheatley's move to limit public access to the courts.

He said: “Like most other entities around the world, the court has taken very reasonable steps to assist in the national effort to address and mitigate the pandemic.

“Our department, like other government departments, is assisting where we can and is following the advice of the officials.

“Some court matters will be delayed out of necessity, quite understandably, but will get back on track when circumstances dictate.”

He added: “The most important thing is to protect life and to take the precautionary steps as advised.

“We urge everyone to heed the official advice, take care of themselves, loved ones and neighbours to the best of our abilities.”

Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building (file photograph)

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Published March 19, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated March 19, 2020 at 5:39 pm)

Public banned from courts over coronavirus

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