It's the first sitting of the court since the covid-19 outbreak.
A Westmeath man has gone on trial at the Central Criminal Court accused of raping a woman at his home three years ago.
The 33-year-old man pleaded not guilty to raping the woman by penal penetration of her anus on January 1, 2017.
This is the first trial that has taken place in the Courts of Criminal Justice since the pandemic. Potential jurors were called in one by one, where normally 16 or 20 jurors would be asked to stand in the jury box before being sworn in.
Mr Justice Paul McDermott advised the jury panel, before selection, that “this is the first trial to take place since lock-down”. He said “special arrangements had been made because of the Covid-19 issues at play” adding that these measures were taken following “extensive consultation with health authorities”.
He said the layout, both in the jury room and the courtroom, had been set up to allow for two metre spacing and advised the panel that they could wear face masks and gloves if they wished. He added that the courtrooms undergo “rigorous cleaning” daily and said the air conditioning in the building was of a high specification.
Mr Justice McDermott said hand washing and social distancing are adhered to throughout the courts complex before he advised that, once the jury are empanelled, they will be spaced out in the courtroom to allow for social distancing.
He said that protective screens have also been put in place. The judge told the panel that he really appreciated them answering their jury service at this time and referring to the measures that have been put in place, he said “the whole object of the exercise is to minimise risk”. He told the jurors that they could bring anything they want to his attention during the course of the trial.
During the jury empanelling, Mr Justice McDermott wore a mask, as did one jury minder, while the second jury minder wore a face shield.
Five jurors wore masks and six of the sworn in jurors were escorted to single spaced out chairs at the back of the courtroom rather than sitting in the jury box, which would be the normal practice. The remaining six jurors sat in spaced out seating in the jury box.
The trial which is expected to last seven days is to open before the jury of seven men and five women today.