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Courts ‘cannot and will not close’

Photo by Eyleen Gomez

The Gibraltar Court Service has tightened measures to “minimise physical interaction” in court and reduce the risk of the spread of the virus while keeping the courts open for vital matters.

In a circular published by the GCS chief executive Hazel Cumbo on Monday, registries will remain open to allow parties to progress legal actions.

But in order to reduce any physical interaction, Chief Justice Anthony Dudley has directed changes to be carried out in the various courts for the month of January.

Jury trials held at the Supreme Court will be vacated and relisted for another date, though sentencing hearings will continue in the usual way.

In cases where defendants intend to plead guilty, they can return to court to enter their plea but the case will then be adjourned until court resumes as normal.

Defendants can surrender to bail in the usual way and lawyers are invited to seek an informal indication from the listing officer whether the court will extend bail in the absence of their clients.

In addition, applications for bail will be listed and heard in the usual way.

Similar procedures will be held at the Magistrates’ Court, which deals with defendants for their first appearance once they are charged.

Hearings where a guilty plea is entered and sentencings will continue to be held in the usual way, and a similar process will be held for bail hearings.

All other Magistrates’ Court hearings and case management hearings will be listed for another date.
Meanwhile, for Civil and Family courts, all hearings listed until January 15 will be vacated, unless they involve the welfare of children.

Those cases that need an urgent hearing can be discussed with the court, and civil hearings held after January 16 can be held remotely.

In the circular, Ms Cumbo said: “In common with other public bodies and business organisations the Covid-19 pandemic is having an impact upon our operations.”

“However, the judiciary and the Gibraltar Courts Service is acutely aware that the courts cannot and will not close.”

“We are also aware, particularly in view of the most recent Civil Contingencies regulations imposing a lockdown until January 16, 2021, of our institutional duty to minimise physical interaction and thereby reduce the risk of the spread of the virus.”

She told court staff that this is a “constantly evolving situation” and warned that further measures may be necessary.

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