COVID-19 (Coronavirus) – How it affects your court matter
Coronavirus has now been declared a pandemic, which will have a significant impact on all Australians including those who have matters in court.
Supreme Court and District Court of NSW
On 16 March 2020 the Supreme Court and District Court of NSW declared jointly that all new jury trials would be temporarily suspended pending further advice from the NSW Chief Medical Officer. The reasons for this is to limit the exposure of all members of the public who are called in for jury duty. Judge alone trials, bail applications and civil trials will go ahead as normal at this stage.
Local Court of NSW
On 16 March 2020 the Chief Magistrate released an official memorandum with a number of significant changes to the way matters are run in the Local Court. Significantly, where a party is represented by a lawyer they are deemed to have attended court in person if there lawyer writes to the court electronically on their behalf. This can be done in circumstances except sentences and hearings.
If a person is unrepresented and wishes to enter a plea of guilty they may do so in writing by email to the Local Court they are required to attend. They are not technically required to attend as a Magistrate can sentence a person in their absence however, this is not a recommended course to take as the Magistrate will likely be making a decision without hearing what you have to say or receiving things like character references, genuine apology from you, any certificates of completion or court reports for causes you may have completed.
All hearings were a defendant is not in custody are suspended as of 23 March 2020 to 1 May 2020 and will be listed for mention on 4 May 2020. This does not stop a person from changing their plea to guilty and having their matter finalised sooner. Practitioners will also be able to use this opportunity to negotiate with police in an assent to resolve matters rather than having them relisted for hearing.
All Local Courts are now also closed to the public and you are not generally entitled to attend court unless you have a specific matter listed that day and you are a party to the matter. In practice this means that if you are a defendant in a criminal matter you cannot bring friends or family or other people in support unless they are a carer. Registrars and Sheriffs are entitled to deny entry or request any person to leave the building.
It is always recommended that people are represented in Court so that you have a professional voice in the courtroom but also a person who can give you proper advice on what you are facing and how to get the best results in Court.
Call us today on 0412 159 813 and one of our local lawyers can discuss your matter with you.