The Judiciary has reported that it has expanded video conferencing capability, including in the prisons, to ensure that the operations of the justice system continue run smoothly during the current COVID-19 crisis.
It is one of many measures which the Judiciary reports it has embarked upon during its current hiatus, which is being utilised to reconfigure its operations to a virtual environment, as far as possible, in accordance with the new Public Health Regulations for COVID-19, which emphasise social / physical distancing.
The Judiciary issued the update on its efforts to clarify any misconceptions the public may have that it has shut its doors.
Below is the full text of the statement from the Judiciary…
JUDICIARY CONTINUES TO DELIVER SERVICE
The Judiciary notes with concern an article in the Guardian newspaper of March 30, 2020 which states that ‘Judiciary closes despite being deemed essential’.
The Judiciary wishes to reiterate that it is simply reconfiguring its operations and recalls that it clearly stated that the Judiciary is making arrangements to provide its services in a time of a pandemic. Changed approaches to the delivery of services are being implemented by many Judiciaries internationally.
Surely it will be understood that with the critical need for people to stay home, as far as is possible, in order to save lives and our country, the Judiciary has to ensure that stakeholders can access its services without having to come through courthouses or having all of the judges, judicial officers and staff leave their homes.
This short period of retrofit takes into account not only the readiness of the Judiciary, but also of our stakeholders who have to link with us electronically. The Judiciary is therefore applying this brief period to getting its linkages in order. We continue to operate.
What is the Judiciary doing to deliver essential services in this pandemic?
1: Rapidly expanding video conferencing capability in the Prisons by quickly constructing containerized VC rooms
2: Hearing charge cases remotely by online video hearings with police stations
3: Introducing electronic filing for private attorneys and state attorneys with online payment of filing fees
4: Introducing remote filing for self-represented litigants
5: Setting up a self-represented litigants hotline
6: Setting up a domestic violence court hotline to address applications for protection orders
7: Calling recipients of maintenance for whom the Judiciary is holding money and arranging to send the funds to their accounts or to special bank pay cards
8: Online applications to switch as many maintenance payors and recipients to CourtPay services as possible to ensure that recipients and children receive maintenance money without delay and that payors are able to pay without delay.
9: Preparing the Judiciary’s chatbot on its website to provide information to the public
10: Manning its special email address. [email protected] to field questions from and communicate with members of the public
11: Using all possible channels and media to keep the public and our stakeholders informed
12: Supporting our judges and staff with a Judiciary medical response team of nurses and doctors who have been providing services 24/7 since the announcement of the country’s first case of COVID-19
13: Doing all that it can to provide PPE to its staff who must come to the workplace physically
14: Doing online counselling sessions with children before the Children Court
15: Doing online family counselling with Family Court customers
16: Using an appointment system to ensure social distancing in situations in which attendance by self-represented litigants is completely unavoidable
17: Conducting Family Mediation by online video and by teleconferencing
18: Exploring a system of online civil and petty civil mediation
19: Issuing court orders and warrants electronically
20: E-lodging of Probate applications through Judiciary E-services platform
21: Holding online court hearings in District Courts, High Court (Civil, Criminal, Family and Children) and Court of Appeal.
The Judiciary takes extremely seriously this pandemic and the Government’s exhortations for people to stay at home and follow the rules and insists on doing its part as a responsible arm of the State to ensure the wellbeing of our people.