The Supreme Court of Victoria has published a cross-jurisdictional announcement from the Chief Justice, on behalf of the Victorian courts and VCAT, in response to yesterday’s announcement that COVID-19 restrictions will ease in the regions from tomorrow, except for Greater Shepparton. You can read the message here.
Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal – potential exposure
All hearings listed at the VCAT on Friday, 10 September and Monday, 13 September have been postponed after a potential COVID-19 exposure.
A spokesperson said the tribunal was working closely with the Department of Health “in relation to a potential exposure of a COVID-19 case at a VCAT premises earlier this week”.
“All VCAT matters listed for Friday 10 September and Monday 13 September have been postponed. Parties that are impacted by these adjournments will be updated on their new hearing dates as soon as possible.”
For up-to-date information about the Courts’ responses, please visit their websites:
- Federal Court of Australia – see here.
- Federal Circuit and Family 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
The Court has reviewed the operational court settings, and the following will apply until further notice.
Melbourne criminal jury trials
Jury trials in Melbourne remain suspended during the lockdown period.
This means all Melbourne criminal jury trials listed during the weeks commencing Monday 30 August, and 6, 13 and 20 September 2021 will be vacated.
Trials that were listed during this period will be listed for a call over before a Listing Judge. The Court will be in contact with the parties soon in relation to a call over date.
The purpose of the call over will be to discuss with the parties options for relisting the trial and to ascertain whether there is any pre-trial and pre-recording of evidence that can be done during the lockdown period. The Court intends to utilise this time to ensure that matters will either be ready for empanelment on day one of the re-listed trial dates by refining any outstanding issues in dispute or, in appropriate circumstances, resolving the case.
Melbourne - criminal judge alone trials
One 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.
Circuit including jury trials
The current lockdown extension is State-wide. However, the Premier has said:
“While these restrictions are implemented state-wide for now, we will review the epidemiological conditions and subject to public health advice, we will consider easing parts of regional Victoria next week.”
In light of this, circuit work from Monday, 6 September 2021, will remain as it is for the moment. The Court’s capacity to run jury trials on circuit will depend on the detail of the prevailing restrictions put in place, even if there is some easing of restrictions within the regions.
Melbourne and circuit – onsite attendance by practitioners and other court users
The operational court settings that have been in place since Wednesday, 18 August 2021, will remain.
This means only matters of urgency or priority can be conducted by the Court onsite and only where there is no reasonable alternative. The restrictions explicitly limit the attendance of court users (practitioners, parties and others) to the extent necessary to support the functioning of the court.
Onsite attendance at a Melbourne or circuit court by any practitioner or court user will be very much by exception and will require approval of the Chief Judge, coordinated through the chambers of the presiding judge.
Parties with matters listed during the lockdown period should contact the presiding judge's chambers in the event of any uncertainty and before travelling to circuit if the case is a circuit matter.
Melbourne and circuit - mask wearing
Mask wearing is at Setting 2 for cases 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 must wear a mask. Mask setting 2 extends to all circuit matters.
Melbourne and circuit - letters of authority
The profession should obtain any letter of authority or work permit 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.