Chief Justice Sir Hugh Williams QC is unable to fly to Cook Islands to hear cases.
Cases are stalled before the court because no judge is able to travel to the country to hear them.
Offenders are being remanded indefinitely in prison or on curfew, awaiting sentencing – with no indication when a judge may be able to decide their cases.
One is recidivist burglar Japhet Manuel. His sentencing matter has been adjourned a second time, after Covid-19 precautions forced the effective closure of Cook Islands borders.
Defence counsel Wilkie Rasmussen applied for bail for this client, but it was declined.
Rasmussen said there were concerns of his client begin held in custody until around June, when it is hoped a judge may next be able to visit and hear cases in Cook Islands.
The Chief Justice Sir Hugh Williams QC was to have delivered his decision a month ago in March – but his scheduled visit to Rarotonga was called off.
So now Manuel faces at least three more months in the cells.
Manuel has admitted two counts of entering with intent and contempt of court.
The Police prosecutor, Senior Sergeant Fairoa Tararo, endorsed a probation report warning there was a highly likelihood Manuel would commit another crime while on bail.
Manuel was going to serve time once sentenced, he predicted, and they would have to deduct time for his custody or remand time.
Justice of the Peace Bernice Manarangi agreed with Sgt Taroro and remanded Manuel in custody.
Another offender awaiting sentencing by a judge is Tereapii Greg Mose, one of two men accused of an aggravated robbery at the Tex Mart Store in Arorangi last year.
Mose was to be sentenced last week by a bench of three Justices of the Peace, but instead it was upgraded to go before the Judge because of the severity of the case.
Tararo said given the number of burglary matters, especially aggravated robberies with an example of another Tex Mart break-in this week, it fell under the jurisdiction of a judge. Mose could face up to 14 years imprisonment.
Mose, however, is allowed out on bail as long as he lives with his parents, abides with a 7pm to 7am curfew, and does not associate with his alleged co-offenders.