Courts switch to electronic hearings
Bermuda's courts have updated their procedures in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A practice direction, sent to those who work in both the Supreme Court and Magistrates' Court by Alexandra Wheatley, the Supreme Court Registrar, details how hearings should be held electronically.
Under the directions, released yesterday, the judge or magistrate will have discretion in terms of what digital platform is used and if a hearing can take place.
Ms Wheatley said: “The senior magistrate, in relation to matters held in the Magistrates' Court, has confirmed generally the nature of the hearings that may be conducted electronically.
“These may include plea court, case management hearings, bail hearings, sentencings, urgent family court and civil court applications or any other application/hearing deemed necessary by the presiding magistrate.”
Criminal trials will not be conducted electronically, but witnesses can give evidence in hearings electronically.
In the case of criminal matters, defendants will appear electronically from the Bermuda Police Service's custody suite, or another area designated by the BPS, with an officer present.
Ms Wheatley said: “It is anticipated that the defendant will have taken legal advice from counsel prior to the court commencing.
“If the defendant has not had the opportunity to give instructions to counsel, then they may request that their matter not proceed until such time that they have had the opportunity to do so.”
Under the directions, the judge or magistrate will have to explain the use of the video platform at each hearing and the defendant will need to consent.
If there is no consent, the judge will decide if the matter should be listed for a later date when the parties can appear in person.
Members of the media are allowed to attend hearings electronically, but they must submit their name at least 30 minutes before the hearing and they will not be allowed to record or broadcast the hearings.
If there are technical difficulties during a hearing, the judge will decide if the hearing should continue or be halted until the issues are fixed.