Restriction on court sittings announced this morning
SUMMONSES against 17 people listed for Tullamore District Court this afternoon have been adjourned because of a new restriction on the length of time the court can sit.
Judge Bernadette Owens announced this morning that she had just received a direction from the President of the District Court that courts in any one venue should not go on for any more than two hours.
She said the direction arose out of evidence given to an Oireachtas committee yesterday.
“It certainly curtails very significantly the time that we have today,” she told the court.
Judge Owens dealt with all matters which were listed for this morning and then called through the cases scheduled for 2pm.
With the exception of one prosecution which was struck out, all summonses were adjourned to September 2 next at 11am.
Judge Owens directed that a garda be present at the courtroom this afternoon to inform defendants of the arrangement.
In a statement issued before lunchtime, the Courts Service said the Chief Justice and the Presidents of the Courts are aware of health advice given to the Houses of the Oireachtas concerning persons who may be in the same room, even though practising social distancing, for a period of in excess of two hours.
“The Courts Service were unaware, until the matter became public yesterday, of what appears to be additional safety considerations beyond those already published. The plans which had been devised by the judiciary and the Courts Service to expand the number of physical hearings in our courts had taken full account of all published advice,” the statement said.
“The Courts Service have sought urgent further advices on this matter as it clearly has the potential to affect the conduct of court hearings or sessions likely to involve judges and registrars, together with others, being a courtroom for more than two hours in a day.
“Pending receipt of such additional advices the Presidents have determined that all court sittings will last for no more than two hours in each day. This decision does not, of course, have any application to remote hearings which will continue as planned.”
The numbers of people permitted to be present in the courtroom in Tullamore has been severely limited since last week.
Notices have been placed on the majority of the seats advising that they are unavailable.
Court staff and judges wear latex gloves and the bible is wiped with disinfectant before witnesses take the oath.