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Cayman’s courts have ramped up their emergency contingency plan to counter COVID-19 issues.

On 16 March, the courts released a statement announcing a list of procedures that focussed on social distancing through the reduction and relocation of several non-essential services, among other measures.

“In addition to measures described in the publication last Monday, we have now developed protocols which are more geared towards the specific kinds of work undertaken in the respective divisions of the Courts,” said Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, in the statement.

In the Court of Appeal, travel restrictions have barred judges from entering Cayman. Those restrictions will stretch into the upcoming appeal session.

To deal with that issue, “video link arrangements have been made to allow the court to be convened with the President and Justices presiding from the United Kingdom”, said Smellie. “The list of appeals to be taken will likely be reduced because of the circumstances.”

In the Grand Court division, jury trials have been suspended, and jurors who were summoned to attend court on 23 March will no longer have to attend. Three jury trials had been set to go ahead; however, the chief justice says those matters will be postponed. In addition, attempts would be made to bring forward two judge-alone trials that were set to take place in May, the statement said.

“Efforts will be made to bring these forward to fill the slots which will become available from 30 March-20 April, due to the postponements,” Smellie said.

Smellie added that people in custody will continue to receive priority, and video links will be used to deal with bail hearings. People on bail will be required to attend court.

In the Summary Court division, which deals with volume crimes such as traffic matters and lesser criminal offences, additional crowd-control measures will be introduced.

Last week, the courts announced a staggered system based on the surnames of defendants. Smellie said in addition, the traffic (mentions) list might also be divided, with the second half taking place every other Monday.

“In order to maintain the required separations, no more than 15 persons will be allowed in a court room at any time and security staff will be instructed to monitor this,” said Smellie.

All other divisions of court will continue to function normally in line with COVID-19 procedures, except the Coroner’s Court which has been postponed until 13 April.

Full coverage: Coronavirus

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