By: Erasmus Williams
Basseterre, St Kitts, March 20, 2020 – The High Courts in St Kitts and Nevis and the other States and Territories of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court has suspened hearing criminal cases.
This disclosure has come from Chief Justice, Her Ladyship the Hon Dame Janice M. Pereira in rsponse to COVID-19.
“For the Court of Appeal, the decision has been taken to suspend the sitting of the Court in the Territory of the Virgin Islands scheduled for the week commencing 23rd March 2020 until further notice,” said the Chief Justice in a statement.
She said the Court “will continue to monitor the situation as it relates to other scheduled sittings for other States/Territories and will provide updates by notices which will be published on the Court’s website (www.eccourts.org) as well as through the court offices in the respective States and Territories and by the use of email.”
“In relation to the High Courts, in all of our Member States and Territories, the decision has been taken to suspend all criminal trials until further notice,” said Dame Pereira, who also announced that all travel by Masters has been suspended until further notice.
“However, sittings of the Master’s Courts, as well as the civil courts, are as far as possible to be conducted via video conference or, where deemed appropriate by the presiding judicial officer, by teleconference.
For the Magistracy, and subject to any special directives from the relevant Office in any particular State/Territory, similar measures are being urged for the safety of all stakeholders,” the Chief Justice said.
She also said that in all jurisdictions, the use of video-link or other virtual communication for court proceedings is encouraged as far as practicable, in an effort to safeguard the health of stakeholders whilst minimizing disruption to the operations of the Court of Appeal, High Courts and Magistrates Courts.
Additionally, some jurisdictions have taken a number of further precautionary measures, such as implementing social distancing protocols for court staff and the public and by otherwise modifying the daily operations of the Courts.
The Court Offices in each Member State and Territory are to be guided by local health authorities on the domestic COVID-19 situation and make the necessary recommendations to the Office of the Chief Justice to modify the daily operations of the High Courts, including the conduct of court proceedings as necessary.
“We have also encouraged High Court Offices to have open dialogue with constituent Bar Associations and Attorneys General in an effort to ensure that all our stakeholders are aware of and updated on the approach implemented by the Court.
We are also aware that national Governments may implement policy decisions impacting operations in their Member State or Territory and we must also be guided by such policies where it impacts the operations of the Court and we are in constant dialogue with the Court Offices on such matters,” the Chief Justice disclosed
Chief Justice Pereira also encouraged all citizens and residents of the Eastern Caribbean to follow the personal and work health and hygiene practices provided by health authorities including regular hand-washing with soap and water and the sanitizing of surfaces.
“We are in a difficult time and find ourselves in uncharted waters. Although I recognize the days ahead will be challenging, we must remain true to the very heart of our purpose—optimism. Let us stay connected and strong together,” she said
“On behalf of the Justices of Appeal, Judges, Masters, the Magistracy, Management and staff of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) our hearts go out to everyone affected by the coronavirus (COVID–19) pandemic in our jurisdiction and around the world. I pray for the continued health and protection for each and every one of us, our families and communities as we weather this storm,” Dame Periera said in the statement.