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Court and COVID-19 (NSW)

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.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, courts in many locations are changing the way they operate and are keeping personal appearances to a minimum. New South Wales courts have adopted the practice of holding all court appearance by phone or video conference, except where there are exceptional circumstances. This article will outline the changes brought to the court system by COVID-19 and each individual court and COVID-19 in New South Wales.

Local Court and COVID-19

People who are not involved in Local Court proceedings must not attend court. Persons who are parties to matters should contact the Local Court Registry to find out if they need to attend in person. If you are advised that you need to attend court, you must not do so if you have been overseas in the last 14 days, if you have had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days or if you are feeling unwell.

Committal proceedings, defended hearings and criminal matters where the accused is not in custody will be adjourned to a future date and parties will be notified in writing of the adjournment date.

Defendants who are in custody and wish to apply for bail will have their bail applications heard over Audio Visual link. If bail is refused, the matter can proceed to be finalised over Audio Visual link once the parties are ready to do so.

A person charged with a summary offence can enter a plea by filling in a Written Notice of Pleading . and returning this to the court. However, if a plea of not guilty is indicated on a Written Notice, the matter will not proceed to a defended hearing at this time. If a plea of guilty is entered by Written Notice, the court will inform you in writing of the next step.

Urgent application for interim Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs) will still be heard. Contested hearings on final AVO application will be adjourned to a later date.

Other urgent application can be made to the Local Court by email, outlining the nature of the application and why it is urgent.

Jury trials

Jury trials have been temporarily suspended in the NSW Supreme Court and District Court. Jury trials that had already commenced when the Coronavirus restrictions were put in place will continue.

District Court and COVID-19

Starting on 1 April 2020, the District Court of NSW will suspend all Judge alone trials, sentencing hearings, appeals, arraignments and readiness hearings where the defendant is not in custody. All these matters will be re-listed on a future date and the parties notified of the new date. These measures will be reviewed on 1 May 2020.

The District Court will continue to hear criminal matters where the defendant is in custody. Application to vary bail will be dealt with by a judge in chambers.

Supreme Court and COVID-19

Registrars Lists and Judges Lists will be dealt with as much a possible via phone link and videolink. Consideration will be given to dealing with Appeals over phone or videolink. Criminal Lists, including Bails and Arraignments will be heard as usual.

NCAT and COVID-19

From 30 March 2020 all NCAT hearings will be conducted by phone, videolink or on the papers. Documents can be filed by emailing them to the Tribunal. The public is asked to try to avoid attending the Tribunal registry in person.

Face-to-face hearings can be conducted only with the prior approval of the president.

Do not attend

Do not attend any court or tribunal if you have been overseas in the last 14 days, have had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days or are feeling unwell with sore throat, fever, shortness of breath or cough.

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

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