The Victorian Government has announced a seven-day statewide lockdown from 8:00pm, Thursday 5 August 2021, inclusive.
The Supreme Court of Victoria have published a joint jurisdictional statement from the Chief Justice, on behalf of the Victorian courts and VCAT. The statement is in response to the lockdown announced yesterday afternoon.
You can access the statement here.
For up-to-date information about the Courts’ responses, please visit their websites:
- Federal Court of Australia – see here.
- Family Court of Australia – see here.
- Federal Circuit Court of Australia – see here.
- Supreme Court of Victoria – see here.
- County Court of Victoria – see here.
- Magistrates’ Court of Victoria – see here.
County Court of Victoria
As a result of the current lockdown, the Court will revert to the same settings we had in place for the previous lockdown on 15 July 2021. The only work that can continue with any onsite attendance at the Court during this time is that which is deemed essential to the administration of justice. This means the following for the Court:
Criminal jury trials
Those criminal jury trials underway may continue at Melbourne and on Circuit, subject to the views of the judge and the parties. Self-evidently, there is a strong public interest in those trials proceeding to verdict, where possible. The Court deems the continuation of any jury trial which has begun as essential.
Criminal jury trials that were due to be empanelled between Friday, 6 August 2021 and Thursday, 12 August 2021 inclusive will not proceed. Every effort will be made to relist these trials over the coming weeks. The Court will be in contact with the parties soon in relation to these re-listings.
Criminal judge alone trials
A trial by judge alone, which is midstream, will continue. Given its equivalence with jury trials, the interests of justice demand that it proceeds to a conclusion as efficiently as possible. By their nature, the Court considers the completion of such trials as essential to the administration of justice. Where onsite attendance is needed to complete a trial by judge alone efficiently, the Court would authorise it.
Other non-jury trial work
Save for work considered essential to the administration of justice, all other non-trial jury work in all Divisions will have to be conducted, if at all, completely offsite. This means that all matters are to be conducted remotely.
A case will only be considered essential where is it essential that it be heard during the lockdown period. There must be compelling reasons why the case must go ahead during the lockdown period and why it must involve onsite attendance.
Given the timing of this announcement, the Court appreciates that it may be too late to organise alternative arrangements, which may lead to some unavoidable attendance on Friday 6 August 2021. Parties with matters listed during the lockdown period should contact the presiding judge's chambers in the event of any uncertainty.
As this is a statewide lockdown, the above considerations apply equally to all circuit work – jury and non-jury work.
Mask wearing is at Setting 2 for cases that are conducted onsite, namely those in a speaking role, including counsel, are not required to wear a mask, but all other participants and other court users (including jurors) must wear a mask. Setting 2 will extend to all circuit matters.
Letters of authority
The profession should obtain any letter of authority to attend onsite at court from their respective organisations, should this be required.
An accused’s bail papers will suffice to attend onsite at court.