The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court has suspended all criminal trials until further notice in its high courts in all of its Member States and Territories.
All travel by Masters has been suspended until further notice as well, according to a statement from Chief Justice Dame Janice Pereira.
“However, sittings of the Master’s Courts, as well as the civil courts, are as far as possible to be conducted via video conference or, where deemed appropriate by the presiding judicial officer, by teleconference. For the Magistracy, and subject to any special directives from the relevant Office in any particular State/Territory, similar measures are being urged for the safety of all stakeholders,” Pereira stated.
“In all jurisdictions, the use of video-link or other virtual communication for court proceedings is encouraged as far as practicable, in an effort to safeguard the health of our stakeholders whilst minimizing disruption to the operations of the Court of Appeal, High Courts and Magistrates Courts. Additionally, some jurisdictions have taken a number of further precautionary measures, such as implementing social distancing protocols for court staff and the public and by otherwise modifying the daily operations of the Courts,” Pereira stated.
“As our region deals with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the priority of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) is to ensure the health and safety of all its stakeholders. We are therefore constantly reviewing strategies and implementing measures to reduce exposure of judges, magistrates, court personnel and court users while still providing a means for the citizens and residents of the OECS to access justice,” the Chief Justice wrote.
She said that the court Offices in each Member State and Territory were to be guided by local health authorities on the domestic COVID-19 situation and make the necessary recommendations to the Office of the Chief Justice to modify the daily operations of the High Courts, including the conduct of court proceedings as necessary.
“We have also encouraged High Court Offices to have open dialogue with constituent Bar Associations and Attorneys General in an effort to ensure that all our stakeholders are aware of and updated on the approach implemented by the Court,” Dame Janice said.
“We are also aware that national Governments may implement policy decisions impacting operations in their Member State or Territory and we must also be guided by such policies where it impacts the operations of the Court and we are in constant dialogue with the Court Offices on such matters,” she added.
“We encourage all citizens and residents of the Eastern Caribbean to follow the personal and work health and hygiene practices provided by health authorities including regular hand-washing with soap and water and the sanitizing of surfaces. We are in a difficult time and find ourselves in uncharted waters. Although I recognize the days ahead will be challenging, we must remain true to the very heart of our purpose-optimism. Let us stay connected and strong together,” she said.