The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) has decided to suspend all High Court criminal trials until further notice, said a statement from Chief Justice Dame Janice Pereira on Thursday.
The decision is based on the heightened concerns about exposure to the COVID-19 in public spaces and a need to reduce the same for staff, members of the judiciary and other stakeholders.
“The rapid transmission rate of COVID-19 requires an equally rapid response, the Chief Justice said. “At the ECSC Headquarters we have put in place a number of internal measures to minimise the risk of exposure and transmission of COVID-19. The measures range from enhancing our office sanitation efforts by installing hand sanitizers at strategic locations throughout our office, to suspending court related travel for all staff, pending any further developments. These measures were also recommended to all Registrars of the High Court in the Courts’ Member States and Territories.
“All travel by Masters has been suspended until further notice. However, sittings of the Master’s Courts, as well as the civil courts, are as far as possible to be conducted via video conference or, where deemed appropriate by the presiding judicial officer, by teleconference.
“For the Magistracy, and subject to any special directives from the relevant Office in any particular State/Territory, similar measures are being urged for the safety of all stakeholders.
The chief justice said they are “constantly reviewing strategies and implementing measures to reduce exposure of judges, magistrates, court personnel and court users while still providing a means for the citizens and residents of the OECS to access justice.
The court is also encouraging the use of video-link or other virtual communication for proceedings, in an effort to safeguard the health of our stakeholders whilst minimizing disruption to the operations of the Court of Appeal, High Courts and Magistrates Courts. Additionally, some jurisdictions have taken a number of further precautionary measures, such as implementing social distancing protocols for court staff and the public and by otherwise modifying the daily operations of the Courts.
The Court Offices in each Member State and Territory are to be guided by local health authorities on the domestic COVID-19 situation and make the necessary recommendations to the Office of the Chief Justice to modify the daily operations of the High Courts, including the conduct of court proceedings as necessary. They are also encouraging High Court Offices to have open dialogue with constituent Bar Associations and Attorneys General in an effort to
ensure that all our stakeholders are aware of and updated on the approach implemented by the Court.
“On behalf of the Justices of Appeal, Judges, Masters, the Magistracy, Management and staff of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) our hearts go out to everyone affected by the coronavirus (COVID–19) pandemic in our jurisdiction and around the world. I pray for the continued health and protection for each and every one of us, our families and communities as we weather this storm” the chief justice statement read.