New Local Court rules in relation to Covid19 came into effect earlier this month, and include all Local Court sittings, including criminal and civil cases.
At the height of the pandemic, many court matters were being handled ‘remotely’ that is via technology – by telephone or email or audio-visual link (AVL) as people were discouraged from actually attending court in person. The new rules show that this is changing. Small claims and other general civil matters are still being dealt with remotely, but anyone charged with a criminal offence, is expected to attend in person, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
People attending the Local Court must wear a fitted face covering / mask, where directed by a presiding magistrate. Any exceptions will be considered by the presiding magistrate.
If you are required, but unable to attend court because of health matters, you need to notify the court, which may decide to adjourn proceedings, or enable the use of AVL.
Civil matters in both the Small Claims and General Division are still being dealt with remotely – via email, telephone or AVL, unless an application has been made by participants, and accepted by the court, to have an in-person appearance in court.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence, then you are expected to appear before the court, unless you have made an application to appear remotely, and it has been accepted by the court.
Weekend bail appearances in remote and rural areas may still be heard remotely.
All appearances by persons in custody (including release applications) are to be conducted by AVL (where reasonably practicable), unless listed for hearing or an order has been made by the Court to bring the defendant before the court in person.
While these measures are a step towards getting courts working as they were prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, if for any reason you need to change arrangements, then the court will consider applications for in-person or remote appearances if preferred. To make an application you need to speak with your legal representative or speak directly with the court which is going to hear your matter.
These new directions apply to the Local Court only – they may be subject to change, so if you have an upcoming court appearance you are encouraged to check information closer to the date of your scheduled appearance.
These new directions only apply to the Local court – not the District Court, or the Family Court.