Though it will not be business as usual due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, services at the Sir Lee Llewellyn Moore Judicial and Legal complex in St. Kitts in the High Court will resume operations on May 18, 2020, said Diana Francis, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs.
“Criminal matters will resume on the 18th of May 2020, in St. Christopher and civil matters will resume in both St. Kitts and Nevis on 2nd June 2020. In Nevis, case management hearing will commence on 22nd May 2020,” said PS Francis.
During the May 14 edition of the National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) COVID-19 Daily Briefing, Ms. Francis said that persons will be contacted about their hearing dates once they are set.
“The court will communicate the hearing date for each matter and information relating to accessing the necessary link to the remote hearing. In the case of represented litigants or defendants, this information will be communicated to their lawyers. In the case of litigants, in person or unrepresented defendants, the court will contact such persons directly,” she said. “It is essential that in-person litigants or unrepresented defendants ensure that the court is supplied with up-to-date information.”
In reading a circular from the High Court to the St. Kitts-Nevis Bar Association and legal fraternity, the permanent secretary said that the unfortunate incident of the COVID-19 global pandemic halted operations at the court.
“The High Court was not immune from the disruptive impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic as its operations were suspended… Nonetheless, there is an important obligation on the Courts, which perform a vital public service to remain accessible. While it cannot be business as usual, the Court has had to adapt to ensure continued delivery of justice without which the administration of Justice in St. Christopher and Nevis will grind to a halt and will result in backlogs and delays,” she stated.
PS Francis said that the Court implemented several protocols to safeguard all who access the judicial system.
“The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court has decided that all hearings in the High Court will be conducted as far as it is reasonably practicable using existing technologies to conduct remote hearings as a first option. The objective is to make the remote hearings as close as possible to the usual practice in court,” she said. “In-person hearings are to be discouraged unless the judge determines that there is a genuine and absolute necessity for same and it is not possible to conduct a remote hearing. Where judges deem it fit for hearing to be conducted in person, attendance shall be limited to attorneys, parties and necessary witnesses.”
To continue safeguarding individuals against the spread of COVID-19, the court implemented several internal measures for anyone accessing the court. It has enhanced its sanitization efforts by installing hand sanitizers at specific locations throughout the offices and is strictly observing physical distancing. Anyone exhibiting flu-like symptoms or other symptoms associated with COVID-19 will not be permitted into the court.
Photo: MS. DIANA FRANCIS, PERMANENT SECRETARY IN MINISTRY OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AFFAIRS AND COMMUNICATIONS