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COVID-19 restrictions and remote hearings - A recent case example

Mark Kelly
17/04/2020

Locations

Ireland

Mr Justice David Barniville has provided a written decision in respect of the proposed hearing of a Commercial List Judicial Review under the current COVID-19 restrictions and the consideration given to a remote hearing of the Judicial Review.
  The decision was issued on 7 April 2020, following a brief application made by the parties to the proceedings of Perrigo Pharma International DAC v John McNamara, The Revenue Commissioners, the Minister for Finance, Ireland and The Attorney General.
 
The case had been listed for hearing on 21 April 2020. Solicitors for the Applicant wrote to the Solicitor for the Revenue Commissioners and other respondents outlining proposals for the hearing so that the government restrictions could be complied with – these included proposals such as limited numbers for each legal team, no clients being present in court and a deep clean of the courtroom at the end of each day.
 
The Solicitor for the Revenue Commissioners could not consent with any such proposals as their offices had been closed since 27 March 2020 and they were not in a position to prepare for the hearing, let alone attend on the hearing date given the uncertainty with any extension of the government restrictions. They in fact had intended seeking an adjournment.
 
Part of the application to Judge Barniville was considering if the hearing could proceed remotely. Judge Barniville outlined that it was certainly the intention of the Courts Service to proceed with remote hearings once it had been trialled and the infrastructure put in place in respect of same. At the time of the application, those trials had not concluded and the infrastructure was not in place but it was hoped that remote hearings would commence during the new court term commencing on 20 April 2020.
 
On that basis, the planned hearing was adjourned. Mr Justice Barnville expressed no view as to whether or not this case was suitable but did note that it was a Judicial Review and not a witness action. Mr Justice Barnivlle also noted that at that point there had been no guidelines in respect of what cases might be suitable for a remote hearing and what priority would be given for certain such cases in the various High Court lists (and other courts).
 
The last statement issued by the Courts Services in respect of remote hearings was on 31 March, wherein it was outlined the progress made in respect of launching remote hearings. The statement advised that further updates will be provided to maximise the number of cases to be heard remotely. It is expected that a further statement will issue at the outset of the new court term. In addition, the Law Society of Ireland have been working with the Courts Service in respect of the trialling of remote hearings with a "dry run" taking place today. It is expected that many Court of Appeal and Supreme Court cases without witness will be suitable for such hearings on a remote basis.
 
 Written by Mark Kelly.

Learn more about our Litigation and Dispute Resolution Team.
 
 

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