(PRESS RELEASE) – Further to the press release dated 19th March 2020, this serves as an update on the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court’s response to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic affecting our region.
In recent weeks, we have witnessed unprecedented changes to the daily lives of citizens and residents of the Eastern Caribbean as Governments of the Court’s Member States and Territories seek to break the chain of transmission of the COVID-19 in the region.
The ECSC is continuing to take measures and implement strategies to safeguard the health and safety of the general public, judicial officers and court staff while at the same time maintaining a functioning judicial system and access to justice. Her Ladyship, The Honourable Dame Janice M. Pereira, Chief Justice has directed that electronic means of communication, video and teleconferencing, be utilized where feasible, to conduct hearings in each of the Member States and Territories. This is to ensure that court services and hearings remain available and uninterrupted as far as possible while reducing the level of person-to-person contact.
ECSC COVID-19 Emergency Measures Practice Direction
As it relates to the filing of Court documents, in Member States and Territories where the ECSC E-Litigation Portal (“the Portal”) has been implemented, filings of documents in court matters already on the Portal and the filing of new court matters will continue as normal, as much as possible. To provide for the continued filing of Court documents in Member States where the Portal has not been implemented and for matters in all Member States and Territories not currently on the Portal, the Court has made special provisions for electronic filing.
On 25th March 2020 the ECSC introduced the ECSC COVID-19 Emergency Measures Practice Direction (now in its 2nd Re-Issue) which makes a number of provisions, including for the filing of Court documents by e-mail in Member States and Territories where Court Offices are closed under Government mandated shutdowns. The COVID-19 Emergency Measures Practice Direction also makes special provisions for service of documents by e-mail where possible.
To gain a full appreciation and understanding of the Court’s emergency measures and other applicable restrictions we invite you to read Practice Direction No. 3 of 2020, COVID -19 Emergency Measures (2nd Re-Issue), which is available on the ECSC website at https://www.eccourts.org/practice-directions/.
Court Of Appeal Matters
-Urgent applications to the Court of Appeal will be assessed by the Court for Hearing and will be heard either by electronic means or ,where the rules provide, on paper.
-The Court will monitor the local and regional situation to make assessments for the conduct of upcoming scheduled Chamber Hearings and Full Court sittings.
-All Court of appeal matters should be filed using either the Portal or via email in accordance with the COVID-19 Emergency Measures Practice Direction in cases where filing of such matters are not yet available on the Portal or the Portal is not yet available in your Member State. For those Member States and Territories where the Portal has been introduced, a strategy is being developed to bring on to the Portal those matters which were still being managed utilizing manual filings. If a Court Office is open in a Member State or Territory and is accepting filings, appeal documents should be filed at the local High Court Office and copies of filed documents must thereafter be e-mailed to the Court of Appeal Registry by the filing party.
High Court – Civil Cases (includes Commercial Matters in the Territory of the Virgin Islands and Saint Lucia)
-Urgent applications to the court will be heard remotely or by written submissions.
-Except for urgent applications to the court, hearings and trials for civil matters are suspended with immediate effect until further notice, unless the judicial officer determines that the matter can be dealt with by video or tele conference.
-For those Member States and Territories where the Portal has been introduced, a strategy is being developed to bring on to the Portal those matters which were still being managed utilizing manual filings.
High Court – Criminal cases
-All jury trials have been suspended until further notice, and all jurors are excused.
-Video link conferencing will be utilized wherever possible for bail hearings, emergency applications and adjournments for persons in remand.
-Court users are asked to liaise with the High Court Registrar at all times to receive further instructions as to the filing, listing and hearing of all High Court matters.
Please be advised that the Court will proceed on its normal Easter Vacation from Thursday 9th April 2020 to Friday 17th April 2020. Please note that the Court of Appeal Registry and the High Court Registry in each Member State and Territory will still be open, subject to the measures which are in place as directed by their national Governments, and will also be
accepting filings either via the Portal or via email.
Our information on the ECSC response to COVID-19 is constantly being updated. Court users and visitors are therefore advised to refer to the ECSC website for the latest information.
The ECSC Headquarters located at the Heraldine Rock Building, Waterfront, Castries and the Sub-Office at the Renham Building, Castries will remain closed until further notice. Kindly note that you may contact our Office via email at the following email Addresses; General queries – [email protected] and Court of Appeal Registry – [email protected]