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Covid-19 Threat: Most Court Hearings Suspended

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Chief Justice Ivor Archie, left. Photo: Azlan Mohammed

ALL court cases in Trinidad and Tobago are suspended except domestic violence and other cases and those deemed fit for hearing.

The measures to limit court attendance takes effect from March 16 to April 17 due to the Covid-19 threat.

In Practice Directions published in the TT Gazette on Monday, Chief Justice Ivor Archie said they were issued “to protect the health and safety of court staff and the public.”

It was done to:

  • Reduce the number of people coming to court; and
  • Making the courthouses and administrative offices as safe as possible for those who must physically attend those buildings.

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The Practice Directions stated, “With the exception of emergency matters, domestic violence hearings and evidentiary hearing in criminal cases, all in-person appearances are discouraged. Judges, Masters, Magistrates, Supreme Court Registrars and Magistracy Registrars are encouraged to use telephonic or video technology for all necessary hearings.”

People are given an extra month to pay fines including ones from traffic offences.

Court of Appeal

Sittings are suspended except for matters deemed by the Court to be fit for hearing.

Criminal Divisions of the High Court

Sittings are suspended except matters deemed by the judge to whom the matter is docketed to be fit for hearing during this period.

It has listed a number of matters deemed fits for hearing:

  • Matters under the Proceeds of Crime Act including detention and forfeiture of cash matters
  • Matters under the Interception of Communication Act
  • Matters under the Anti-Gang Act
  • Matters under the Civil Asset Recovery and Management and Unexplained Wealth Act
  • Matters under the Bail Act

Jurors

People who were summoned to appear for jury service on April 1, 2020 are no longer required to appear.

And people who applied for exemptions are no longer required to attend the schedule hearing for that purpose.

People who were directed to return for jury service on March 23 are no longer required to attend court and are discharged.

High Court – Civil Matters

  • Sittings are suspended unless deemed by a judge to whom the matter is docketed to be fit for hearing.
  • Deemed fit for hearing are matters under the Anti-Terrorism and Mental Health Acts and applications for writs of habeas corpus.
  • Family Court
  • Sitting are suspended unless deemed by the court to be fit for hearing.
  • Matters fit for hearing are domestic violence cases, maintenance applications including ones for variation of orders to use CourtPay and urgent custody applications.

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Criminal and Traffic Matters

Sittings of the District and Traffic Courts are suspended except matters deemed by the court to be fit for hearing.

Matters deemed fit for hearing are:

  • Domestic violence cases
  • Maintenance applications including ones for variation of orders to use CourtPay
  • Urgent custody applications
  • Matters under the Proceeds of Crime Act including detention and forfeiture of cash matters
  • Part-heard preliminary inquiries for amtters related to the following which the District Court judge deems urgent: murder, kidnapping, robbery with violence, robbery with aggravation, possession of firearms and ammunition, gang related matters and possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking.

Summary Courts

All Summary Courts including traffic matters listed to be heard during this period are adjourned for one month from the date on which it is to be heard.

If the adjourned date falls on a weekend or public holiday, the matter goes to the next court business day, the Practice Directions stated.

Bail

Bail for people whose matters are not deemed fit for hearing during this period shall be extended on the adjourned date on the same conditions.

Payment of fines

The time allowed for the payment of all fines (including traffic tickets) for which payment is due during this period is extended for one moths from the date on which payment is made.

If the adjourned date falls on a weekend or public holiday, the matter goes to the next court business day, the Practice Directions stated.

Probate and Administration of Estates

  • Attorneys and the public are discouraged from filing new applications for Probate and Letters of Administration during this period.

The Practice Direction noted, “In the interest of public health and to maintain appropriate social distancing, attendance in courtrooms should be limited to attorneys, parties and necessary witnesses.”

The directions also are encouraging attorneys to file by electronic means whenever possible.

The Practice Directions stated that people with legitimate court business who are ill or caring for someone who is ill or in high-risk category are advised to stay at home and request an adjournment by calling the relevant court office, contacting the Registrar of the Supreme Court or the Magistracy Registrar Courts by sending email to covid.response.public@ttlawcourts.org.

 

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