New COVID Rules for the District Court of New South Wales

by Sonia Hickey
NSW Courts

The District Court of New South Wales has published its latest memorandum which outlines the new rules effective from 12 January 2021, which aim to limit the transmission of COVID-19.

Jury Trials

While jury trials have recommenced in the District Court, there are some changes to the way these will proceed going forward. 

All court participants are to undergo rapid antigen screening (RAS) prior to the commencement of the trial and on every second day of the trial or as otherwise required by the Sheriff of NSW.

Media and Journalists wishing to attend court

Journalists and members of the media are not permitted to attend court in person, but can apply to attend via virtual courtroom, and any requests will be subject to orders made by the judge concerning the conduct of the trial. 

Judge Only Trials 

Judge alone trials will continue to be held. 

However, all court participants will now be required to have a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) prior to the start of the trial as well as on every second day of the trial, or as otherwise directed by the Sheriff of NSW. 

Sentence Proceedings

Sentence proceedings are currently being heard by use of the virtual courtroom, and will continue this way until further notice. 

In cases where the Sentencing Judge requires the parties to be physically present in the courtroom, all the parties will be advised, and also made aware  of the health and safety requirements for attending court. 

Mask Wearing

Wearing of face masks is still mandatory for everyone entering the courts, and for the duration of their time within the court. 

Priority PCR Testing Letters

Over the past two years, the Court has provided “essential service worker” letters for priority PCR testing for court participants. However, with the NSW Government now moving away from PCR tests to Rapid Antigen Testing, these letters will no longer be provided by the Court.

Trials and Sentence Hearings of WHS Prosecutions

Work Health and Safety matters are to be heard by use of the virtual courtroom until further notice.

Local Court Appeals, Bail Applications, Matters for Mention and Readiness Hearings

There will continue to be no personal appearances in Local Court appeals, bail applications, matters for mention and readiness hearings. 

Such matters will continue to be dealt with by use of the virtual courtroom. 

Civil Proceedings

All civil matters are to be heard by use of the virtual courtroom until further notice.  

Dust Diseases Tribunal of New South Wales

There are personal appearances in the Dust Diseases Tribunal of NSW. All matters are to be heard by use of the virtual courtroom until further notice.

Don’t attend court if:

  • you test positive for COVID-19 and are self-isolating
  • you have COVID-19, flu or cold symptoms
  • you are waiting for a test result
  • you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive
  • you are quarantining after returning from travel abroad

The current outbreak is affecting court processes and procedures, which can result in date changes and delays. If you have any questions you should contact the court you are due to attend, or speak with your criminal defence lawyer. 

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Author

Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Autumn 2021.

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