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A man reviews the servers of within a Port-of-Spain office building yesterday.

Derk Achong

Scores of virtual court hearings, carded for yesterday morning, had to be postponed due to a lack of internet connectivity yesterday.

Guardian Media understands that judges and magistrates were forced adjourn their trials and case management hearings after the issue, which was reportedly due to damage to a regional submarine fiber optic cable and affected multiple internet service providers, persisted for much of yesterday morning.

While some judges, who were presiding over their cases from their homes, reportedly had internet access, their hands were essentially tied as attorneys and litigants with issues could not connect to participate.

If the hearings had gone ahead, the lack of connectivity could have potentially affected the remote audio recordings of the hearings, which are used to produce official transcripts.

Legal sources said that the issue was resolved by midday, with hearings originally carded for yesterday afternoon going ahead as planned.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, the Judiciary has mainly relied on video conferencing to facilitate hearings with court buildings only being used in rare circumstances.

Special purpose facilities have also been established at the country’s prisons and across T&T to facilitate remand prisoners and witnesses, who have to testify under oath.

The temporary shift has received mixed reviews from judicial officers and attorneys, who praised the convenience of virtual hearings but noted various challenges, especially when conducting trials.

While some civil trials have taken place during the period, jury trials have not been possible with criminal judges focusing on a handful of accused persons, who elected judge-alone trials.

In September, a murder accused who has been on remand for over a decade, threatened to sue the Judiciary over the suspension of jury trials claiming that the move breached his constitutional rights.