Here are the latest updates from Australia’s courts and legal bodies as the coronavirus pandemic continues
Some courts are beginning to seek a return to normal operations. The latest protocols are as follows.
Fair Work Commission
With the number of applications in the unfair dismissal jurisdiction increasing, the commission is looking to implement initiatives such as the reallocation of resources to manage these cases, according to a statement by commission president Justice Ross.
Public counters remain closed, and hearings and conferences are being conducted via phone or videoconferencing. The commission has also established the New Approaches program to coordinate with employers and unions at the workplace level during the COVID-19 outbreak.
New South Wales
Jury trials are set to recommence beginning 15 June in Sydney, Parramatta and Newcastle. These trials will take place in only a few select courtrooms subject to advice from the Department of Health.
Strict health and social distancing guidelines will be implemented in the process.
“All jurors will not be required to sit in the jury box but will be able to spread out across the courtroom. The empanelment of jurors will be conducted by audio visual link to avoid large numbers of persons in courtrooms at any one time. The maximum number of persons who can be in each courtroom in accordance with social distancing requirements has been carefully identified,” said Derek Price, chief judge of the District Court.
The court is making preliminary arrangements for normal sittings to resume. The arrangements are detailed here.
The court has issued guidelines for civil and criminal proceedings impacted by COVID-19. A template for an electronic court book has also been released for use by judicial officers in virtual hearings under the trial division.
President of the court Judge Hylton Quail released Practice Direction 5 on Wednesday, which states that effective today, listings under the Perth Children’s Court for on or after 2 June will be heard as listed, including trials.
In-person proceedings will be conducted in suburban Perth and Mandurah; however, the magistrate may sit via video link as circumstances dictate. Arrangements for phone and video links must be made with the registry prior to the hearing, and documents must be sent via email.
Registry services will be provided as normal.
The court is moving to recommence jury trials. A proposal has been made for the Mount Gambier Circuit to proceed with trials in July, and for trials to resume in Adelaide beginning 1 August subject to advice from SA Health.
Arrangements for the use of AVL will be made where possible. Other safety measures are outlined here.
Effective 9 June, lists for criminal proceedings will be reinstated, and the court will be hearing more matters. Circuits will also recommence in June.
Legal representatives appearing before the court via telephone or Zoom must complete the audio/audio visual request form two days prior to the scheduled appearance. The form is available on the court website.