Three special hearings of Castlebar District Court have been arranged for July in a bid to clear the lengthy backlog of criminal cases that have built up since last March when Covid-19 restrictions were introduced.
Over the past four months, the Director of Public Prosecutions, An Garda Síochána and solicitors have agreed to the adjournment of hundreds of cases as efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus intensified. Covid-19 restrictions meant defendants and some solicitors were not obliged to attend court sittings and on some days there was only a handful of people present in the main courtroom at Castlebar Courthouse.
However, last month’s introduction of phase two of the roadmap to lift restrictions saw district court sittings return to something approaching normal, while still adhering to social distancing guidelines.
In Castlebar, hand-sanitisation stations are in place, seats are blocked off at intervals while defendants must remain in the courthouse lobby until their case is called.
Judges and court staff had agreed to identify three special days when contested cases, i.e. where the defendant has pleaded not guilty, could be heard. It has now been announced that the three special court sittings will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, July 21, 22 and 23 next. A number of cases have already been fixed for hearing over these days and more will be scheduled in the coming weeks.
A visiting judge will preside over the special sittings while the normal district court sitting on July 21 will be presided over by Mayo District Court judge Fiona Lydon. Judge Lydon will also preside over the Family Law days in Ballina and Castlebar later that week.
Speaking in Castlebar District Court, Judge Lydon commended District Court clerk Peter Mooney, local solicitors and the gardaí for all their hard work in ensuring cases were listed over the three July dates.