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Coronavirus and Court Appearances (Qld)

Written by Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts. She also completed a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice at the College of Law in Victoria. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.

Attending court in person is generally mandatory in any court matter with appearances by phone or video conference reserved for when there are exceptional circumstances. However, due to the Coronavirus court appearances by phone and video are to become the new normal, with appearances in person limited to urgent matters. This article outlines how Queensland courts have reviewed their operations to remain consistent with health advice in the era of COVID 19.

Magistrates Courts

Under Practise Direction 3 of 2020, the Queensland Magistrates Court has directed that from 30 March 2020 there will be no physical appearances in the Magistrates Court except in the following situations:

  • by an aggrieved in an urgent non-police domestic violence application;
  • by the media;
  • or with leave of the court.

This means that the vast majority of Magistrates Court matters will from now on be conducted over the phone or by video link. Parties to court matters can contact the court their matter is listed in to obtain the details needed to join the conference call.  Parties must provide any documents they seek to rely on to the court by email.

Work the court will undertake during the crisis

The Magistrates Court has indicated that it will undertake the following work while the Coronavirus restrictions are in place:

  • Matters where the accused has been in custody overnight;
  • Urgent domestic violence applications;
  • Urgent child protection applications;
  • Bail applications;
  • Domestic violence applications already before the court;
  • Sentences where the defendant is likely to be released from custody;
  • Committal and summary matters where the defendant is in custody;
  • Urgent regional QCAT matters heard in the Magistrates Court;
  • Applications under the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act;
  • Civil applications to be dealt with on the papers (ie without oral evidence);
  • Other matters with leave from a Magistrate.

During the Coronavirus court appearances in these matters will occur by phone or video link, including where the matter is listed before a circuit court.

Currently listed matters

All criminal and civil matters already listed for mention before the court will be adjourned to a future date. Parties and their lawyers will be informed of the adjournment date in writing. In criminal matters where the accused is on bail, bail will be extended in the defendant’s absence. Temporary orders will be extended for the period of the adjournment.

New civil matters

All civil applications will be dealt with on the papers. If a party believes they will be advantaged by having a matter dealt with on the papers, they may seek leave of a Magistrate to have the matter heard in person.

New criminal matters

All criminal matters where the accused is not in custody will be adjourned for a period of at least two months. No appearance is required by the defendant.

Electronic pleas of guilty

In some Magistrates Court criminal matters, it is possible to enter an electronic plea of guilty. This option is available if you’ve been charged with a  minor offence and were summonsed or given a Notice to Appear at court.

Urgent applications

Where a party believes that delay in hearing a matter would cause substantial prejudice, they can apply to have the matter heard urgently. This application should be made by email

Children’s court

From 30 March 2020, all Children’s Court matters will be conducted by phone or video conference, including matters where the child is in custody.

Currently listed matters

All currently listed criminal and child protection matters will be adjourned to a future date and parties notified of the new date in writing. Orders will be extended for the period of the adjournment.

All new criminal matters where the child is not in custody will be adjourned for at least two months. Applications can be made by email for a matter to be heard urgently where a party believes delay will cause substantial prejudice.

Supreme and District Courts

The Chief Justice for the Supreme Court has suspended all new jury trials in the Supreme Court and District Court due to the Coronavirus. Criminal trials that have already started will continue. Other Supreme Court and District Court matters will proceed. The court has indicated it will continue to monitor the advice of health authorities closely and to act accordingly.

QCAT

Starting on the 39 March 2020, the following QCAT matters will be heard over the phone or via video conferencing except where there are exceptional circumstances:

  • Guardianship matters
  • Urgent Minor Civil Dispute Tenancy matters
  • Hearings (including appeals) that have already been listed to be heard at Queen St, Brisbane the week commencing 30 March 2020.

All other QCAT matters will be adjourned to a date in the future. Directions Hearings, Compulsory Conferences and Mediations will be conducted over the phone. Urgent applications to QCAT can be made by email to the QCAT registry.

Attending court

If you are feeling unwell and have been overseas in the last 14 days, do not attend court.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.  

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