Criminal trials statewide are expected to be suspended for at least a fortnight, to be announced tomorrow.
The new legal tenure begins next week, but the Courts Service believes that Omicron now makes it virtually impossible to call people for jury service, to be made up of eleven foreigners.
In the past, when it came to much less transferable variants, large spaces like Croke Park and theaters were rented out for summoning juries – when hundreds of people were called in, to be sent to various courts for the conduct of tests.
The Irish justice system has continued to operate successfully since the start of the pandemic, through the use of remote sessions and new technologies. This has been particularly the case in civil cases and appeals.
But the right of an accused to be tried by a jury composed of his peers in a criminal trial raised new difficulties with the advent of Omicron, and the risk that people’s health could be endangered by being sequestered with it. others.
The risk of massive public disregard for jury summons was also debated among stakeholders, including the judiciary and the Gardaí, ahead of today’s expected announcement.
A delay is now seen as a circuit-beaker that would allow cases to be dealt with most effectively over time, rather than trying to struggle – with witnesses also already shown seeking to self-isolate when struck. by Covid, even if due in court to testify.
“The justice system has not collapsed over the past two years and has done very well,” said a senior source. “No case is dropped, but there have been consultations on how to manage what’s on the lists.”
Asked about the impending postponements, a Courts Service spokesperson said an official statement would be made on the matter tomorrow.
The Ministry of Justice has been consulted and is aware of developments. Criminal trials involve a relatively small proportion of court cases.
“Restrictions on some court hearings are expected from next week,” a Courts Service spokesperson told Independent.ie
He said court administrators were “liaising with the judiciary, other justice sector bodies and the legal professions before detailed changes.”
The situation will be constantly monitored and normal criminal proceedings will resume as soon as possible.