Blog authored by Geraldyne Keen Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the past two months and as direct result of the covid-19 pandemic, the Local Court of NSW has implemented changes to its daily operations to reduce the risk of the spread of the virus, protect court users and limit face-to-face contact.
On 9 April 2020 the Chief Magistrate released a consolidated Memorandum outlining the changes to the Local Court.
A summary of these changes are as follows:
None of these arrangements prevent a physical appearance before the Court however individuals should contact the court prior to attending in person.
Legal practitioners are permitted to appear before the Court in writing or by email to minimise their physical attendance in court in the following circumstances:
- By entering an appearance, making a requesting such as an adjournment, and/or indicating a plea.
- In AVO matters: by entering an appearance and seeking adjournments or any necessary orders including orders by consent
- An application pursuant to section 32 of the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990.
- For sentencing proceedings (see below and the memorandum for further detail).
Defended hearings – defendant NOT in custody
No hearing dates will be allocated for defended hearings.
All defended hearings which were listed between 23 March to 1 May 2020 were vacated and should now be listed for mention in August 2020. All defended hearings which have hearing dates between 4 May and 31 July 2020 will be vacated and listed for mention in September 2020.
This does not include matters listed for:
- Determination of section 32 applications,
- Annulment applications; or
- Part-heard matters for submissions and decision only.
If there is no appearance the matter will be adjourned for not less than 1 month. The defendant will be notified if they do not appear on the next occasion or contact the Court, then the Court will deal with the matter in their absence, subject to the requirements of section 25(1) of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999.
All appearances by defendants are to be by Audio Visual Link (AVL).
The Court will not hear or list any defended hearings where defendant remains in custody.
Defended hearings listed between 4 May and 31 July 2020 are to be vacated and remain listed for mention on the previously allocated hearing date. An application for release may be made on this date. The Court recognises that as a direct result of these changes lengthy periods of custody may result in a period of incarceration that would exceed the ultimate penalty that would have been applied should the defendant been found guilty at an earlier time. Matters in this category will be adjourned for not less than 8 weeks for mention only.
Fresh custodies & Bail
First appearances for persons police bail refused will continue via AVL at particular courts.
Not every country court has access to AVL facilities. Dubbo will be operational as a centralised bail court for the surrounding region.
Legal representatives should indicate a plea and provide sentencing submissions in writing/email. The submissions should be no longer than 3 A4 pages.
A physical appearance by the defendant or their legal representative will not be required unless the Court determines necessary. This should only arise in matters where a conditional release order, community correction order or intensive correction order is considered by the Court. If this is the case, the proceedings will be adjourned for either a physical or AVL appearance by the defendant.
Where the Court considers a sentence of full-time imprisonment the matter may be adjourned for 8 weeks and a possible further 8 weeks if the current situations remains at that time.
AVO hearings listed to 1 May 2020 will not be heard and no hearing dates will be allocated. AVO’s with related CAN proceedings will be adjourned to the same date as the CAN. AVO matters without a related CAN may be adjourned for mention for not less than 3 months. Applications that remain contested may be adjourned for not less than 3 months.
The COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 amended the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (the Act) to facilitate changes to the listing of provisional orders during the pandemic period. Section 29(4) provides for provisional orders to be listed up to 6 months from the date the order is made. NSW Police had advised the following in relation to fresh provisional orders:
- 1.Provisional orders with no charge will be listed 3 months from the date the order was made.
- 2.Provisional orders with related charges will be listed the same date the charge is first listed and will continue to travel with the criminal charge.
The Court will continue to accept urgent proceedings including AVO matters. However, the Court should be contacted first by email indicating why the matter is urgent. If the Magistrate considers the matter urgent, arrangements to deal with the matter will be provided by email.
Listing of non-bail Court Attendance Notices (CANs)
Police will not be listing Field Court Attendance Notices or Future Court Attendance Notices until 3 months into the future.
Unless straight forward, the Court anticipates they will not deal with these matters other than by way of an adjournment
Listing of bail CANs
From 31 March 2020 these Notices will be listed 8 weeks into the future.
The State Debt Recovery Office will not list any further traffic matters until 1 October 2020.
The Court has set aside October 2020 to endeavor to catch up on backlogs. The Court does not intend to list any hearings during this month.
The Chief Magistrate’s Memorandum dated 9 April 2020 can be found at: http://www.localcourt.justice.nsw.gov.au/Documents/COVID19/updated-and-consolidated-listing-adjustments-during-covid-19-pandemic.pdf
For information regarding Early Appropriate Guilty Plea committal matters please refer to the Chief Magistrate’s Memorandum (No. 4) dated 9 April 2020: http://www.localcourt.justice.nsw.gov.au/Documents/COVID19/further-clarification-of-local-court-arrangements-for-eagp-matters-during-pandemic-period.pdf
For further information regarding Domestic and Personal Violence proceedings please refer to the Chief Magistrate’s Memorandum (No. 7) dated 31 March 2020: http://www.localcourt.justice.nsw.gov.au/Documents/COVID19/chief-magistrate-s-memorandum-7-management-of-domestic-and-personal-violence-proceedings.pdf