Chief judges issue updated guidelines for conducting jury trials

The guidelines took effect on 7 March and cover all trial participants

Chief judges issue updated guidelines for conducting jury trials

Chief judges have issued updated guidelines for the conduct of jury trials in the High Court and District Court due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

The Jury Trial Bubble Guidelines, which took effect on 7 March, cover all participants in a jury trial, including defendants, court staff, judicial officers, counsel, interpreters, empanelled jurors, media, witnesses, communication assistants, and corrections staff.

Under the updated guidelines, the jury panel will be provided with separate entrances to avoid unnecessary contact with other court attendees. If alternative facilities are available, the jury panel may be directed to attend a different location.

For empanelling a jury, the process should adhere to existing processes applicable during the pandemic, including the utilisation of additional courtrooms and spaces in courthouses to safely accommodate the jury panel. Moreover, the pre-balloting of jurors may occur in advance to limit the number of court attendees.

After the jury is empanelled, jurors will be ordered to sit one metre apart. If possible, Perspex screens may be installed in appropriate locations depending on courtroom configuration and assessment of risk in each court location.

The updated guidelines also provide that all court participants must wear KN95 masks, and cannot remove their masks unless directed otherwise by the presiding judge. Moreover, they will be required to take COVID-19 rapid antigen tests every day for the first three days of the trial and every second day thereafter. If a participant refuses to undergo testing, the trial judge will decide if any action should be taken.

If someone records a positive result or is deemed a household contact, they will need to self-isolate. Jurors may be allowed by the presiding judge to return to serve on the jury if they are asymptomatic, vaccinated, and provide a negative result on a daily basis.

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