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Courts reduce operations amid COVID-19 pandemic

The courts have reduced operations to essential services after a state of emergency was declared in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, Chief Justice Brian Moree announced that reduced court operations will take place from Monday, March 23. The revised court schedule came after Prime Minster Dr. Hubert Minnis imposed a curfew and shutdown of non-essential businesses until March 31.

In the Supreme Court, all trials, case management hearings, interlocutory applications and pretrial reviews have been suspended until April 14. Bail hearings are suspended until March 31 and arraignments set for March 27 have been rescheduled for May 8.

The Supreme Court will continue to handle matters like emergency bail applications, injunctions, domestic violence and child protection orders, writs of habeas corpus, orders under international treaties and matters determined an emergency by a judge.

Applications for emergency applications can be made electronically through the court’s website at www.bahamasjudiciary.com, or at the registrar’s office in the Ansbacher Building between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

The Family Registry, Probate Registry and Court of Appeal Registry are closed until March 31. During this period, the civil and criminal registry will operate from a temporary satellite office in the Ansbacher Building between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

In the magistrates’ courts, all new criminal trials, juvenile cases and inquests are suspended until April 14. Part-heard criminal trials, juvenile matters and inquests are suspended until March 31.

First pleas and bail hearings will continue between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. A maximum of 15 persons are allowed in court, inclusive of the magistrate, attorneys, defendants and police officers.

Pleas in the Traffic Court have been put off until March 31. Traffic arraignments are adjourned to the same date in April. If that date falls on a weekend or holiday, the arraignment will take place at the next court sitting.

New and part-heard civil trials have been suspended until March 31.

Fines, traffic tickets and child support payments can be made between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Remands will continue by video link from the Remand Court at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services.

The coroner’s office will authorize the release of bodies from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. until March 31.

Voluntary bills of indictment are suspended until March 31.

As long as the nationwide curfew remains in effect, “Court operations will be restricted to essential services required for the proper functioning of the judiciary under the constitution and laws of The Bahamas,” Moree said in a press release.

Minnis ordered the closure of non-essential businesses, limited the hours of essential businesses and imposed a curfew of 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. until March 31 to limit community spread of the novel coronavirus.

There are four confirmed cases on New Providence.

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Artesia Davis

Artesia primarily covers court stories, but she also writes extensively about crime.

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