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TCI Court issues practice direction in response to COVID-19

legal matters

As a result of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, it has become necessary for courts to adjust their ways of working which would limit the spread of the virus and manage their workloads appropriately. I have therefore decided to issue this Practice Direction on a pilot basis for a period of three months, although it may be reviewed within that period should it become inappropriate or unnecessary and may be revoked at any time.

The judiciary of Turks and Caicos Islands is committed to doing everything possible to ensure access to justice is not fettered, whilst protecting our staff and the public.

The judiciary is hoping to ensure:

  1. That the number of persons coming to the various court locations are limited, and
  2. That the courts are as safe as possible for those who are essential to be in attendance.

These directions are issued in order to protect the health and safety of the court staff and the public.

  1. The following measures are to be implemented with immediate effect. Judges, Magistrate’s and Registrars are encouraged to use telephones and video technology for all hearings which are deemed fit for hearing at this time.

Magistrate Courts

  • All matters listed to be heard during this period will be adjourned to the 20th April or until further notice except for any urgent or emergency applications or hearings as mentioned below.
  • Save and except for emergency hearings, domestic violence matters and cases in which evidence is to be given in criminal cases or any other case that the Magistrate shall deem fit for hearing, all persons are asked to avoid attending and discouraged from attending the courts in person.

Traffic Court

  • All traffic cases / hearings are to be adjourned for a period of 30 days or until further notice except for those matters deemed by the Magistrate to be necessary and/or urgent and fit to be heard at this time. 
  • Any payments of fines for traffic tickets are extended for a period of 30 days from the 23rd March 2020. If the payment date falls on any public holiday or weekend, then the payment ought to be made on the next business working day.

Supreme Court:

Criminal Jurisdiction

  • All criminal cases / hearings are to be suspended until further notice except for those matters deemed by the Judge to be necessary and urgent and fit to be heard at this time.
  • The matters under exception in the Magistrate and Supreme Courts may include:
  • First Time Bail Applications
  • Proceeds of Crime Applications including restraint of cash applications
  • First appearances
  • Domestic Violence Applications
  • Mutual Legal Assistance Applications
  • Extradition
  • Any other matter deemed fit for hearing

Persons on Bail

  • All persons who are currently on bail and whose case is not deemed fit for hearing shall be extended on the same terms and conditions to the adjourned date.

Civil Jurisdiction

  • All civil cases / hearings are to be suspended until further notice except for those matters deemed by the Judge to be necessary and urgent and fit to be heard at this time.
  1. In respect of filing fees, all payments ought to be made by cheque and deposited in the safety deposit box at the front of the court together with the relevant application. If payments are to be made at the Government Treasury, upon making payment persons ought to contact the court on the designated phone number / email address to inform of such payment and the necessary receipt will be provided by court.
  1. The matters under exception may include:
  1. Applications under any Mental Health Ordinance.
  2. Proceeds of Crime Applications including restraint of cash applications.
  3. Maintenance Applications including applications to vary maintenance orders.
  4. Domestic Violence Applications.
  5. Writs of Habeas Corpus.
  6. Urgent custody application or any other application relating to a child / minor.
  7. Injunctions.
  8. Judicial Review
  9. Any other matter deemed fit for hearing.

Court of Appeal

  1. All sittings of the Court of Appeal are suspended until further notice.

Coroners Court

  1. All Coroner cases / hearings are to be suspended until further notice except for those matters deemed by the Chief Magistrate to be necessary and urgent and fit to be heard at this time.

Time

  1. In respect of any deadline / timeline / direction given and not specifically addressed by this practice direction time will cease to run until the 20th April 2020.

Deeming Applications

  1. Any party to an action or intended action may apply to the court to determine whether it is fit for hearing during this period or the Court of its own motion may deem any action or intended action fit for hearing during this period.
  1. Any application to the court for any action or intended action to be deemed fit for hearing must be made in writing and supported by an affidavit setting out the facts and grounds as to why the matter is to be deemed fit for hearing during this period.

General Matters

  1. In the interest of health and safety and as per guidance and advice given by the public health officials and to ensure that social distancing can take place, the only persons who ought to be in the court room are essential court staff, counsel and the relevant parties to the proceedings.
  1. Counsel are encouraged to deliver documents and submissions via email to the court registry on the email addresses identified below at paragraph 22.
  1. The Judicial Administration has the right and may put in place any measures or protocols that is consistent with maintaining health and safety to court staff and the general public when gaining access to the court buildings. A person may be denied entry to the court building if he does not comply with the measures or protocols that have been instituted including the filling out of any health and travel questionnaire that the court deems fit.
  • Any person who has business at the court or conducting business on behalf of another person but who is unwell and displaying flu like symptoms or who may be considered high-risk as per the public health guidance is hereby asked to refrain from attending at any court building and encouraged to call the court office, court registrar or Magistrate’s clerk and request that the matter be adjourned to another time.
  • Any person requesting an adjournment or other information ought to email the court on or the judicial officers team.
  • The relevant email addresses and phone numbers are:

Civil Matters:

  1. Supreme Court – supremecourttci@gov.tc
    1. Magistrate’s Court – to be added

Criminal Matters:

  1. Supreme Court – supremecourttci@gov.tc
  2. Magistrate’s Court – to be added

Dated this 24th day of March 2020

Shiraz Aziz
Chief Justice (Ag.)

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