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Courtroom to be made Covid-19 safe so trials can restart

Sessions House renovations (Photograph Akil Simmons)

A bid to reopen a courtroom for Supreme Court trials has started – although work was slowed by pandemic restrictions.

Magistrates’ Court 4 – used by the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for several years – has not been used for more than 12 months because of Covid-19 concerns.

But Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons told the Supreme Court yesterday: “Rather than looking for some outside spaces, I believe they intend to fix the courtroom.”

She said the work was held up by the recent surge in Covid-19 cases.

But Mrs Justice Simmons added: “The department of public works is carrying it out, so I think there is some hope they will come back and complete that work soon.”

She said the additional courtroom would help tackle a growing backlog of cases because of the difficulty in holding trials in safety.

Mrs Justice Simmons said the court would prioritise serious cases and ones where the defendants were in custody.

The courtroom was shut in March in an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Hearings were still held – in person and through online video service Zoom – but jury trials were stopped.

The Ministry of Public Works last year refitted Supreme Court 1 in Session’s House to allow the return of jury trials with partitions installed to shield jurors, staff and lawyers.

Lawyers earlier warned that long delays to trials because of a lack of courtrooms risked a clash with the constitutional right to a fair trial in a reasonable time.

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Published May 14, 2021 at 7:51 am (Updated May 14, 2021 at 7:46 am)

Courtroom to be made Covid-19 safe so trials can restart

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