The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court’s arrangements during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic (Update #3)
This is an update from the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) with respect to COVID-19 further to the previous press releases dated 19th March 2020 and 6th April, 2020. The ECSC continues to work with various stakeholders in the justice system to address the issues arising out of this exceptional situation.
The ECSC is continuing to take measures and implement new initiatives in order to protect participants in the justice system and to reduce the spread of COVID-19. These proactive and preventative measures are designed to protect the health and safety of the general public, judicial officers and court staff whilst enabling the Court to continue its duty of administering justice in the OECS.
We do not know how long restrictions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to affect the courts in our Member States and Territories and the everyday lives of the people of the OECS sub region. However, we do recognise that the reduction of pre-existing backlogs, and those which have arisen during the shutdown, are of tremendous concern to people affected by delayed hearings. It is in these circumstances that our Court Offices in each Member State and Territory will continue, in a measured way, to increase the amount of work it carries out during this phase of the pandemic.
The following are some of the measures that have been introduced in our efforts to keep the wheels of justice turning despite our current circumstances:
- The introduction of a Guide for the migration of Court of Appeal, Civil, and Commercial Matters manually filed prior to the implementation of the Electronic Litigation Portal. This was done through Practice Guide No. 1 of 2020 and the rationale was to allow for the continuity of accepting filings for matters and the facilitation of remote hearings. Remote hearings have become a core aspect of the Court’s approach to the continuity of hearings during this global crisis.
- To provide guidance to Court stakeholders on remote hearings, a Video Conferencing Policy was developed and circulated to all legal practitioners and other stakeholders of the ECSC.
- To facilitate hearings remotely, The Honourable Dame Janice M. Pereira, DBE, LL.D, Chief Justice, has directed and declared that the location from which a Judge, Master, or Registrar conducts a remote hearing be declared a Court for the purpose of the conduct of Court proceedings.
- Additionally, to facilitate bail applications, Practice Direction No. 4 of 2020 – Bail Applications for Indigent or Unrepresented Persons was issued by the Honourable Chief Justice.
Furthermore, The Honourable Chief Justice is also recommending that legal practitioners and members of the public utilize mediation as far as possible as a tool for the resolution of disputes outside of Court and as a first step towards resolving disputes arising in commercial transactions, in the community or in the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mediation provides an avenue for arriving at mutually agreeable resolutions of disputes which will allow for flexible solutions and settlement in a timely manner. The public is therefore encouraged to use mediation and should not hesitate to mediate. It must be noted that the ECSC is in the consultation stages of a revised Mediation Practice Direction which aims, where necessary, to improve the current practices and procedures governing mediation in each Member State and Territory.
The Honourable Chief Justice acknowledges and recognizes the hard work of judicial officers and all members of staff in each Member State and Territory who continue to provide much needed support to the operations of our courts and have found many creative alternatives to enable them to continue to function in an environment which has undergone rapid change impacting us for the foreseeable future. Her Ladyship also thanks legal practitioners for the goodwill and patience they continue to show when responding to the new ways in which the courts carry out its functions as we seek to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all stakeholders while striving to render justice to the people we serve.
We are grateful to the legal practitioners who shared their ideas and constructive criticisms with the Court. It is vital to us that we hear how the changes we make impact on legal practitioners, their clients and the general public so that we can ensure that those changes do not interfere with the rights and values that underpin our justice system. As we continue to search for innovative and creative ways to overcome the challenges of this pandemic we look forward to the continued goodwill of and collaboration with all our stakeholders.
Please continue to visit our website at www.eccourts.org for new updates, notices and for keeping abreast with judgments delivered by the Court.
The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) was established in 1967 by the West Indies Associated States Supreme Court Order No. 223 of 1967. The ECSC is a superior court of record for the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), including six Independent States: Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines; and three British Overseas Territories: Anguilla, The Territory of the Virgin Islands, and Montserrat. The ECSC has unlimited jurisdiction in each Member State and Territory.