The trial of an 86-year-old former housemaster at a Co Antrim girls training school accused of sexually abusing three former residents had to be adjourned on Wednesday because of the Covid pandemic.
Belfast Crown Court Judge Richard Greene QC told the jury the decision was taken over concerns for their "safety" which "is obviously paramount".
Judge Greene said "a Covid situation" involving defence counsel had arisen and in "an abundance of caution", it was decided not to "invite defence counsel here until their situation is clarified".
Adjourning the case of Thomas McNaughten until Thursday, the judge also assured the jury the Antrim court where the trial is being held, was "complying with all government protocols and more". In addition to being separated by perspex screens within the jury box, they could also wear face masks if they wished.
However, as a consequence, the case in which the jury are being asked to decide not on the innocence or guilt of the pensioner, from Princes Avenue, Newtownabbey, but whether 'he did the acts complained of', will if it continues, not conclude until late next week.
In all, the former housemaster at the former Whiteabbey girls training school faces one charge of rape, three of buggery and 19 of indecent assault committed over two decades ago in the late seventies, mid-eighties when his alleged victims would have been aged between 15 and 16.