In-person hearings are now being allowed by the courts in limited circumstances.
The change was contained in Practice Directions issued by Chief Justice Ivor Archie on Sunday.
This follows strong criticism by two high court judges, over the Judiciary’s reliance on virtual hearings since the pandemic started.
In-person hearings were previously only permitted for domestic violence cases, but under the new Practice Direction, they will be permitted where witnesses have to tender documents into evidence, where identification is a material issue in the case and when witnesses are unable to appear electronically or from one of the Judiciary’s Virtual Access Customer Centres.
According to the Practice Directions document, requests for in-person hearings must be made at least three working days before the intended hearing.
It said the request must then be cleared with the Supreme Court Registrar or senior Judiciary staff assigned to other judicial buildings to ensure that proper health and safety protocols are observed.
Witnesses must adhere to the Judiciary’s health and safety protocols, including social distancing and wearing masks, including when giving evidence. However, a judicial officer may request that a witness remove their mask for part or all of their testimony.