CHANGES TO NSW COURT PROCEDURES DUE TO COVID-19

On 11 March 2020 the World Health Organisation officially declared the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a pandemic.

In an effort to minimise the spread of the virus, on 13 March the Australian government recommended that people practice social distancing and banned non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people, effective from 16 March.

On 18 March, the government banned non-essential indoor gatherings of 100 people or more. Courts and tribunals are exempt from this ban.

In response to this evolving advice, Courts within NSW have implemented a number of procedural changes, which we will explain below.

This information is current as at 18 March 2020 and will be updated accordingly as procedures are further changed.

 

Who can attend Court?

You can only attend Court if:

  • you are a party to a matter (e.g. you are the accused in a criminal matter)
  • you need to speak to the Registry in person

This means you cannot bring a support person, such as a friend or family member, to Court with you.

If you are legally represented, you may not be required to attend court. Speak to your lawyer for further information.

You should not attend Court if:

  • you have had close contact with someone diagnosed with or suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19 in the last 14 days
  • you are experiencing any of the COVID-19 symptoms, including fever, coughing, sore throat or shortness of breath
  • you have travelled and returned from overseas in the past 14 days.

 

Some Local Court defended hearings have been deferred

On 18 March 2020 the Chief Magistrate of the Local Court advised that defended hearings which are currently listed between 23 March and 1 May, where the defendant is not in custody, will be deferred.

At this stage, the court will review the position on 27 April. We expect a further update following that review.

 

What if I get called for jury duty during the COVID-19 shut down?

The District Court and Supreme Court have temporarily suspended all new jury trials.

If you receive a letter advising you to attend court for jury duty, you should call the juror information line on 1300 780 199.

This suspension only applies to new trials. If you have already been selected as a juror in a trial which is ongoing, that trial will continue unless you are notified otherwise.

 

What happens if my court matter is delayed due to COVID-19 precautions?

We understand you may want your matter to be dealt with as quickly as possible.

At this stage it is difficult to predict how much matters will be affected by the current coronavirus outbreak. However, the Local Court has announced a number of measures, including setting aside the month of October to catch up on any backlog.

We will keep you updated on any further changes to NSW Court processes due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.