COURT sittings have been cancelled in Antrim, Ballymena and Coleraine amongst other places in Northern Ireland because of the coronavirus pandemic.
From Thursday court business is to be consolidated in five courthouses – two in Belfast, Derry/Londonderry, Craigavon and Dungannon, the Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan has announced.
According to the latest guidance, hearings which do go ahead will be consolidated in the Royal Courts of Justice and Laganside Courts in Belfast, and the Craigavon, Dungannon and Londonderry courthouses from 26 March onwards.
Antrim and Ballymena cases will be mentioned at Laganside in Belfast and Coleraine cases in Derry/Londonderry.
A statement on the Judiciary NI website said: “The Lord Chief Justice has announced that with effect from Thursday 26 March 2020 all court business is to be consolidated in The Royal Courts of Justice, Laganside Courts, Craigavon, Dungannon and Londonderry Courthouses and
only urgent matters will be addressed by way of a court hearing until further
This guidance reflects the restrictions announced by the Prime Minister on 23
Examples of urgent matters, which typically involve the immediate liberty, health,
safety and wellbeing of individuals include:
First remands in the Magistrates’ Courts (charge sheets1
Sentencing where delay may mean time on remand exceeds any
likely/realistic custody period under the sentence.
Applications under the Children (NI) Order 1995 such as Care Orders,
Prohibited Steps Orders, Emergency Protection Orders and Secure
Declaratory judgments in patients’ cases;
Habeas Corpus applications;
1 Overnight charges & 1st appearance after 28 days
Urgent judicial reviews.
Other matters where the legal representative or a party to the proceedings has
requested a hearing and the judge considers it urgent or necessary.
Where the requirements of fairness and justice require a court based hearing, and it
is safe to conduct one, then a court based hearing should take place.
The judge may limit the number of persons present in court at any time. Members of the public
should NOT attend court.
Urgent matters will generally be undertaken remotely either by live link, email, telephone, Sightlink, Zoom, or BTMeetme etc. A party or legal representative should notify the court office of the means by which they will engage with the court.
ALL OTHER MATTERS
The default position is that all other matters will be adjourned by a judge without a
hearing. In most cases the adjournment period will be one of eight weeks.
These are exceptional and unprecedented times.’