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Courts look to ramp up service after lockdown

The Supreme Court will begin to gradually hear more cases in the coming weeks as the Gibraltar Court Service works to resume its usual posture and prevent any further delays in the administration of justice.

In moving towards a more standard court diary and expanding current services, the courts will nonetheless be following all appropriate public health advice, the Minister for Justice Samantha Sacramento said.

Speaking from No.6 Convent Place, Ms Sacramento underscored that the Gibraltar Courts Service has continued to operate during the Covid-19 period.

Both the Supreme and Magistrates’ Courts have continued to hear cases during the lockdown to ensure that justice has continued to be served, she said, explaining that this had been achieved with lawyers appearing in court, using video links and teleconferencing facilities.

“During this time if applications have been made, applications have been heard and they’ve been heard in different ways precisely because it’s important that we do not delay justice and that we ensure that justice is done,” she said.

In the coming weeks, the Supreme Court will start to make arrangements to list and hear more cases.

In cases where applications are to be heard in person, this will be done where appropriate social distancing between the parties can be achieved.

It is likely that the first cases to be listed by the courts will be those which were adjourned during the lockdown period and which have not been reinstated by the parties since the relaxation of the rules.

Asked about defendants held on remand awaiting trial at this time and the possibility of establishing jury trials - which are currently on hold - Ms Sacramento said the Chief Justice, Anthony Dudley, and the Gibraltar Court Service had taken advice from Public Health Gibraltar on the matter so that courts could resume as soon as possible.

She said: “There is a timeline that the courts have prepared on the basis of this advice so that cases can be heard and there’s the balance depending on the number of parties and issues such as social distancing being achieved and all the other standard public health advice.”

Additionally, the period of pandemic had put a spotlight on the courts' IT infrastructure, with Supreme Court cases having to be heard in the premises of the lower court which are the only one equipped to allow for video conferencing to take place.

Asked if there were plans to redress this, Ms Sacramento said the matter was being discussed with the Chief Justice and would form part of the Government's 'restart and recover' programme.

“We’ve all had to make arrangements and adjustments during this time the important thing is that a court with a video link was made available to ensure that hearings were heard but I know that the Gibraltar Court Service have been working very closely with IT&LD to be able to enhance that capacity going forward," she said.

“But it’s very much a part of the discussion,” she added.