Wendy Harris QC, President of the Victorian Bar, today launched the Victorian Bar’s Consolidated Guide to Victorian and Commonwealth Court Protocols in Response to COVID-19.
“In the past three weeks, we’ve witnessed a transformation in how justice is being administered in our courts and tribunals – a transformation, more universal and far-reaching than any other in our professional lifetimes, that has necessitated a radical overhaul of the protocols and procedures on which courts have traditionally relied and on which the Bar has built its expertise”, Ms Harris said.
“Over these three, extraordinary weeks, the team at the Victorian Bar has been collating and distributing daily updates about the new and evolving technologies and procedures the Victorian and Commonwealth Courts and Tribunals have introduced to facilitate the continued administration of justice. Our justice system has been wrenched into a new way of working in less than a month, and I’ve been impressed, as a daily witness to these changes, at the determination of our Chief Justices and others in the judiciary and administration of the courts and tribunals to make change, continue to dispense justice, and respond to community concerns. They have, in adapting their ways of working under the most significant of pressure, been particularly cognisant of the impact of the COVID-19 measures on those awaiting and those seeking justice, as well those whose professional livelihoods depend on the continued functioning of the justice system.
“I’ve heard some tremendous stories of adaptation to keep the wheels of justice turning – appeals in the Court of Appeal have been heard on the allocated day, with the judges present in the Supreme Court of Victoria and all parties logging in remotely; thirty-four courts in the Federal Court of Australia to date have been fitted out to conduct remote, Auscript-enabled, proceedings, and this number will continue to rise; new Magistrates’ Court and Children’s Court protocols ensure we continue to protect the youngest and most vulnerable members of society when they interact with the judicial system.
“This guide to how courts are responding to the COVID-19 situation has been put together by two talented young barristers – Kieran Hickie and Hadi Mazloum – sourced from the Victorian Bar member daily updates and information provided on the websites of and by the various courts and tribunals. I’d like to thank all of those across the court system who have worked so hard to keep the profession up to date and to find solutions to problems that we never imagined we would face.
“It’s impossible to publish a comprehensive guide that is completely accurate at one point in time, as the sands continue to shift across the judicial system. We will continue to update the online version of this report. But we at the Victorian Bar did think it was time to pause, take stock, acknowledge the depth of the transformation that has occurred, and reflect on how this will change the administration of justice in the future.
“I hope that the guide provides readers with the opportunity to do that.”
Elizabeth Gray on +61 401 561 554 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org