On Tuesday, March 17, the Minister of Health and Wellness announced that Barbados had recorded its first cases of COVID-19.
The number of cases now stands at 17. This means that the country has now moved to Stage 2 of the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness has therefore implemented the following measures with immediate effect:
- Persons are requested to limit physical day-to-day interaction with each other. In addition, social distancing should be practised generally. It is important to maintain at least one metre, or three feet between yourself and anyone who is visibly ill and who is coughing or sneezing.
In light of this development, it is therefore important that everyone remains vigilant and pay particular attention to hand hygiene in order to restrict the spread of COVID-19. Each of us has the responsibility to do all that is humanly possible to manage the current situation.
The Judiciary of Barbados is concerned with ensuring that:
- The health and safety of all judicial officers and staff, attorneys-at-law, marshals, litigants, police and security personnel and members of the public are protected; and
- The Courts of Barbados remain functional and committed to providing access to justice for all persons.
We have therefore determined that the following measures will be implemented immediately, until further notice:
- The institution of protocols for increased/enhanced cleaning of all high traffic public areas in the Supreme Court Complex and the Magistrates’ Courts.
- The establishment of hand sanitizing stations within all court buildings for use by staff and all court users.
- The institution of protocols relating to security procedures for all persons entering the building.
Kindly note that the Court will be instituting Zoom technology during this week to bolster the Courts’ capacity to continue business.
Further, it is imperative that we reduce the number of persons who enter into our Courts in order to transact business having regard to the measures outlined by the Ministry of Health and Wellness. The new arrangements for Court hearings are set out below:
COURT OF APPEAL
The Court of Appeal will continue to hear matters which have been scheduled.
SUPREME COURT – CIVIL
Part-heard Trials – As far as possible, Judicial Officers will complete all part heard trials and will be required to implement Government’s social distancing policy in all Courtrooms.
New Trials – Judicial Officers will determine in consultation with litigants and Attorneys-at-law, those matters which require hearing at this time and those which can be adjourned to a later date.
Again social distancing should be used if new trials are done.
CHAMBERS – CIVIL AND FAMILY
It has been decided that the Chambers List will contain no more than eight matters. These will be allocated time slots.
Urgent Applications – The Duty Judge may determine such applications, by telephone, on written submissions or by video link in Courtrooms No. 7 and 9.
Ongoing trials – Judicial Officers will complete those trials which are ongoing.
New Trials – No new trials will be started at this time and it will be necessary to set new dates for those matters which will be affected. Sentencing hearings and MSI hearings for persons not on remand will continue to be held. Status hearings will be done via Prison Video Link where necessary.
Bail Applications – These applications will now be heard via the Prison Video Link with the Judge and the Attorney-at-law present.
MASTER/REGISTRAR’S COURT – HEARINGS
The Master/Registrar’s Court list will contain no more than eight matters, which will be allocated time slots. Again, social distancing should be employed.
– These will be completed subject to social distancing procedure.
Domestic Violence Cases and Paper Committals – The Courts will continue to hear domestic violence cases and paper committals.
New Cases – Persons brought before the Court on new charges shall enter their pleas. However, the number of persons present in Court should be restricted. Dates should be sent for trial.
Part-heard matters – These will be completed subject to social distancing policy.
New Cases – No new trials should be commenced unless the matter is urgent.
Part-heard Trials – These will be completed subject to social distancing policy.
New Trials – No new trials will be started until the matter is deemed urgent.
Call Days – These will still be done with social distancing.
Finally, we strongly urge all officers, attorneys-at-law, litigants and all other court users that they should not come to the Complex or any Magistrates’ Court if they are ill and are exhibiting flu like symptoms, or have recently been exposed to persons who are ill or exhibiting flu like symptoms.
They should instead call their care provider/doctor, the nearest polyclinic or the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 hotline at 536-4500 for advice.
Chief Justice of Barbados (Ag) , Kaye Goodridge