SINGAPORE: Most court hearings that fall within the next month will be adjourned to a later date, in light of the one-month "circuit breaker" initiative to curb further spread of COVID-19.
This applies to all hearings at the Supreme Court and Family Justice Courts, with the exception of those involving essential and urgent cases, according to a media release issued on Sunday (Apr 5).
On Friday, the Government announced a slew of strict measures to break the transmission of the coronavirus in Singapore, including closing workplaces that do not provide essential services and schools from Apr 7 to May 4.
During this period, hearings at the Supreme Court and Family Justice Courts that are deemed not essential and not urgent will be adjourned. Non-criminal matters at the State Courts will also be adjourned, while the circuit breaker period begins only on Apr 13 for criminal matters.
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The courts have put up circulars on their websites to specify which matters are considered urgent and essential, and even these are to be heard by electronic means and not in-person where possible.
WHAT'S URGENT AND ESSENTIAL?
When assessing whether a matter is essential and urgent, the courts will consider whether the case is time-sensitive or if there are any legal requirements that state the matter has to be heard within a specified time-frame.
Urgent and essential hearings in the Supreme Court include magistrates' appeals that involve caning, with the accused person about to turn 50, after which caning is not allowed.
They also include applications to stay executions, review bail, expedite appeals to the Court of Appeal, as well as matters involving child custody.
Essential and urgent matters in the State Courts include producing an arrested person in court within 48 hours as per the Criminal Procedure Code, applications to remand an accused person for investigations and viewing of bodies by the coroner.
Trials and plead-guilty mentions that involve accused persons who are in remand and that need to be expedited in the interests of justice will continue. This will be determined by the court on a case-by-case basis.
For trials that must go ahead, accused persons, witnesses, prosecution and defence counsel will attend court in person unless informed otherwise.
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However, for plead-guilty cases considered essential and urgent, remanded accused persons, prosecutors and defence will attend via a video link. If the accused person is on bail, he or she must attend in person.
Applications under the Protection from Harassment Act for expedited protection orders involving violence or doxxing, among others, are also considered essential and urgent matters and will be heard as usual.
The Family Justice Courts will hear only matters that are time-sensitive, constitute a threat to life and liberty or relate to urgent needs of the family involved.
HOW TO MAKE REQUESTS
Information counters at all courts will be closed, along with their respective libraries, in order to reduce the number of court visitors.
Parties may make requests to the relevant courts for their matters to be heard within the next month, but this should be in line with directions set out in the circulars, available on the courts' websites.
In particular, parties should be aware that "a hearing is not essential or urgent merely because it is convenient for the parties to have the matter heard early", according to the media release.
Those with queries may turn to the courts' websites and e-services or contact the courts' registry officers at the following:
For Supreme Court, email SUPCOURT_Registry@supcourt.gov.sg or call 6557 7495. For Family Justice Courts, email FJCOURTS_Family_Registry@fjcourts.gov.sg or call 6435 5398. For State Courts, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 6587 8423.