Courts in Seychelles to resume June 1 with priority cases
(File photo) Palais de Justice at Ile du Port which houses the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal of Seychelles. (Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Courts in Seychelles will start hearing priority and scheduled cases on June 1 and full functions will resume two weeks later, the judiciary said on Monday.
The set dates are part of the judiciary's phased re-opening plan in consultation with the health department and the Department of Risk and Disaster Management (DRDM).
No backlog of cases is foreseen, but if one develops the courts could consider shortening the August recess.
The head legal researcher at the office of the Chief Justice, Joelle Barnes, told SNA that "each tribunal and court have gone through every pending case to ensure that during that period, the appropriate focus can be on addressing these priority cases."
The courts and tribunals in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, have been operating under Court Vacation practices since the first positive case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the island nation on March 16.
Currently, the courts and tribunals are taking cases coming for a first appearance after an arrest, remands, urgent matters and delivery of judgements.
Barnes told SNA that the judiciary does not expect an increase in the case backlog as "courts would have been in court vacation during April and ordinary sittings were not scheduled to take place during the period of restriction."
No new cases were being filed during the same period.
"Judgments due to be delivered during the period of time that the court was not taking ordinary sittings were delivered by the duty judges on behalf of all judicial officers who were working from home," she added.
Judiciary employees who could work from home did so during the period of restricted movement and meetings were taken via video conferencing.
"We will consider shortening the August vacation if it appears that there is a marked increase in cases or a marked delay in taking cases. This is yet to be determined," said Barnes.
In line with the priority to ensure the reduction of the likelihood of contracting COVID-19, the judiciary is focusing on cleaning and preparing the courthouses for reopening since May 4 to May 15. This comes after restrictions on movement were removed.
Following public health guidelines, all judiciary staff and visitors to the courts are being screened and signed in and out of buildings. Only parties, lawyers and witnesses will be permitted to enter courtrooms except in cases involving minors. Hand sanitisers will be available at the court entrance and all visitors must use it before entering. Other measures have also been put in place.
Nichol Gabriel, a Seychellois lawyer, told SNA that "we were consulted about the decisions made and I feel that all that is being done is for our own benefit."
"When it comes to COVID anything can happen, so social distancing needs to be applied in court and if you are to allow everyone to come at the same time, I don't think that this will be a good thing. We need to follow all the directions put in place," he said.
The judiciary employs 189 employees and ordinarily, there are more than 400 visitors coming to courthouses excluding lawyers, judiciary staff and judicial officers.