COVID-19: High Court cases adjourned for one month; only urgent matters to be heard

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Due to the corona-virus threat, the Supreme Court of Judicature today (Tuesday), announced that with effect from March 23, 2020, subject to the decision of the hearing judge, all pending matters in the High Courts in all three Counties are adjourned for at least one month to a date on or after 20th April, 2020.

Additionally, only urgent matters/cases will be heard by the High Courts. The designated hearing judge will make the determination on the urgency of the matter.

Following is the full advisory issued by the Supreme Court of Judicature: 

Update on Court Operations in Guyana

The Judiciary of Guyana is committed to ensuring continued access to justice while safeguarding our staff and the publics we serve.

The continued threat of COVID 19 and the evolving situation which it has presented require constant review of existing Court policies and protocols. Further to the Court protocols of March 15th, 2020 please be advised of the following which takes effect from March 23rd 2020:

  • Subject to the decision of the hearing judge, all pending matters in the High Courts in all three Counties are adjourned for at least one month to a date on or after 20th April, 2020.
  • Only urgent matters/cases will be heard by the High Courts. The designated hearing judge will make the determination on the urgency of the matter.
  • With the exception of maintenance, domestic violence and related matters all other cases in the magistrates’ court will be refixed to 20th April, 2020.
  • Where persons are in custody their matters will be heard or bail considered.
  • Where persons are on bail, please check for the adjourned or new court date at the court district office for the court where your matter is being tried. A notice has been issued with telephone contact information for the magistrates’ courts in each district.
  • Where cases or hearings have been adjourned for the one month period but an urgent situation arises in a case, an application must be made by letter, with reasons, to the Chief Justice or Chief Magistrate as the case may be, for consideration of an earlier hearing.
  • Where trials or urgent hearings are considered necessary, these will be curtailed to the minimum period of time necessary. Written submissions/speaking points and addresses must be submitted to the Court/Magistrate. The Judge/Magistrate will determine the duration of the trial/hearing.
  • Emails, Telephone Conference calls, Zoom/Skype and other related technology will be utilized to minimize “in person” attendance at Court and hearings of cases.

Where  ‘in person’ hearings are permitted  – the protocols in relation to social distancing must be followed:

  1. Only attorneys-at-law, persons/litigants and witnesses connected with the matter will be allowed to enter the Court yard and/or court room.
  2. Distance of at least 3 feet must be maintained between persons.

– The opening of the Demerara Criminal Assizes for April will be postponed for one month. The Berbice and Essequibo Criminal Assizes are also suspended for a month. Thereafter the circumstances will be reviewed on the basis of the prevailing situation. Jurors will be advised via the media when they would be required to attend court.

– Bail applications and Remand of Prisoners will be done via Skype, telephone conferencing or other electronic means.

– Magistrates will be operating on a roster basis, sitting one day per week in each District.

– Attorneys-at-law are encouraged to only file matters that they deem urgent at this time.

– Attorneys-at-law need not attend court to request adjournments. Email/letters/Telephone calls can be utilized.

– Where the Court has issued adjournments, the adjourned dates will be communicated to attorneys-at-law via email, telephone, Skype or other electronic means.

– The media must choose senior press officers or press representatives to attend court and share information when covering cases rather than having all media houses present in Court.

– Staff of the Court Registries and Offices will be operating on a rotation basis.

Sanitization

Enhanced cleaning and fumigating of all courts and offices continue to be in place.

Attorneys-at-law, litigants and witnesses and other court users must comply with sanitizing requirements on entering all court compounds.

Social Distancing

In the interest of Public Health and safety of everyone the need to maintain social distancing must emphasised.

Therefore, attendance in court will be limited to attorneys-at-law, litigants and witnesses. It will be for the presiding judge or magistrate to determine whether and when any such persons should attend court, if necessary. The judge or magistrate will decide who will be accommodated in court, given the need for social distancing.

  • Members of the public are advised not to come to any court unless specifically requested to do so by the Court or by their Attorney-at-law.
  • The service provided by the Family Court Registry to pro se or “in person” litigants is suspended until the 20th April, 2020 and after. A notice of the resumption of the service will be issued.
  • Based on the advisories from the World Health Organisation, persons having flu like symptoms, or who are otherwise ill or are caring for persons with such conditions, or who are in the high-risk or vulnerable category of persons are advised not to enter the court compounds.

– Any questions, queries or clarifications needed on any matter in court or on the protocols, can be addressed by contacting the Registrar or Deputy Registrar of the Supreme Court on Telephone Nos.:

–              227-1223

–              226-8487

–              226-7947

or by sending email to

–              [email protected]

–              [email protected]

–              [email protected]

The guidelines referred to in the Court Protocols of March 15th, 2020 must still be strictly followed.

Constant review and assessment of the situation will be done and updates provided to court users and members of the public.