COVID-19 LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (EMERGENCY MEASURES) BILL

On 24 March 2020 the NSW Government introduced and passed the COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Bill. The new laws make temporary amendments to a number of Acts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The laws aim to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in New South Wales by addressing current social distancing challenges and giving agencies and institutions greater flexibility so they can continue to operate.

Below are some of key amendments which apply to crime and justice:

 

Granting of parole to some inmates

The Commissioner of Corrective Services is now able to grant parole to certain offenders before their non-parole period expires. Parole can only be granted where it is deemed that the offender’s release is necessary in the interests of public health or the security and order of a correctional facility. Vulnerable offenders and others who pose a low risk to the community will be prioritised.

The Commissioner will not have the power to grant parole to offenders who have been convicted of serious offences such as murder, terrorism or sexual assault.

 

Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders

Prior to the enactment of these new laws, Provisional Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders (ADVOs) made by police remained in place for 28 days. This meant that the first Court appearance had to be within 28 days.

This timeframe has now been extended from 28 days to 6 months. This means that a defendant could initially be subject to an ADVO, without any oversight by the Court, for up to 6 months.

 

Appearance via audio-visual link in court

The new legislation enables accused persons, lawyers and witnesses to more easily appear in the Local Court via AVL.

 

Juries

Sheriffs now have the ability to exclude people from jury selection where there is good reason to do so, such as for the safety and wellbeing of an individual or the community.

 

This information is current as at 26 March 2020.  We will continue to keep you updated on any further legislative changes due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.