ANYONE charged with breaching covid19 regulations in Trinidad and Tobago on or before October 16 may pay the fines from October 19-November 30.
The ease-up on the payment of covid19 tickets, which includes those for failing to wear masks and those relating to any violation of Government’s coronavirus public health regulations, is contained in the practice directions issued by Chief Justice Ivor Archie on Wednesday.
The practice directions also set a timetable for the hearing of challenges to the public health fixed penalty notices, starting December 15 to January 19.
The rules for court operations for the coronavirus pandemic also curtails all court hearings which will be done by electronic means except in domestic violence matters in which it is absolutely necessary to have the person in court.
The payment of all fines due has been extended to October 16, in keeping with the provisions of Government’s coronavirus regulations.
Those who have to make or receive maintenance payments must also contact the court before the next payment is due to make arrangements and to get instructions on converting to the CourtPay system.
The rules also provide for all service and commissioner of affidavit fees to be suspended until December 31 while the suspension of the payment of 50 percent of all traffic tickets issued before May 26, will be suspended until October 16.
According to the rules, there will be no in-person hearings, and for cases where it is impossible to conduct a matter by electronic means, or not in the interest of justice, the court can adjourn it and give directions.
All jury trials are also suspended and prisoners will not be required to go to a court building. Bail for those who are already out on bail will be extended to the next court date on the same conditions imposed by the judge or magistrate.
The practice directions also provided guidance for domestic violence matters and only those deemed absolutely necessary by the court can be heard in-person, but on appointment.
Where there are in-person hearings for domestic violence matters, the rules said the court has to ensure that there is no congregating of people and is to ensure there is adequate space to allow for appropriate physical distancing.
Permission for anyone to enter the building where the domestic violence matter is being held in-person must also be given by the registrars and court managers.
The practice directions reminded litigants and attorneys of its e-filing system as there will be no manual filing at any court office. All filings shall be done by electronic means only and anyone wanting to file an audio or video exhibit electronically in the district (magistrates’) courts they can contact the magistracy registrars and clerk of the court.
Attorneys, police or the public who have business at courts can make an appointment by e-mail or by phone.
Specific protocols are in place for those who have permission to access a court building, including the wearing of masks, temperature screenings and physical distancing.
According to the practice directions, the measures are necessary because of the recent increase in the number of positive covid19 cases in TT and the advent of community spread and the risk to court staff and the public as well as recent developments which led to the closing of court buildings and quarantine of staff.
On Tuesday, the Assembly of Southern Lawyers wrote to the CJ asking the Judiciary to review its system of virtual hearings at the district courts, complaining that litigants and lawyers have had to wait for hours for their matters to be called.
The assembly’s president Michael Rooplal said the situation has had a negative effect on efficiency and productivity.
He suggested a system similar to what is issued in the civil courts to give parties set times for their hearings.