Changes to court operations - COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

The Local Court has made changes to its operations to reduce the risk of the spread of Coronavirus. The changes are outlined in the Chief Magistrate’s communications. Below is some general advice surrounding these arrangements.

Forms are available for defendants or their legal representatives to enter a plea in Local Court matters online through the Online Registry.

Entry requirements, contacting/ attending the court

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The following entry requirements will be strictly applied statewide:

 

For any person still required to physically attend (please ensure you have read all information as you may not be required to attend), the following applies:

  • MUST NOT have visited a hotspot or had contact with a diagnosed, suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days
  • MUST NOT have any flu-like symptoms (even mild) including fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath, or loss of taste or smell;
  • MUST wear a mask (unless evidence is produced of a medical exemption), AND
  • MUST adhere to physical distancing whilst in the building at all times.

 

Please note that due to the changing health advice, additional entry requirements may apply. These requirements will align with the NSW Health advice on a particular day. 

 

Inability or refusal to adhere to these requirements will result in refusal of entry or a requirement that the person leave the premises.

Contacting your local court can be done in writing or by phone. The email address and telephone number for local courts are here

You can get information or legal support from:

  • LawAccess www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au or call 1300 888 529 (Monday to Friday)
  • Legal Aid:  www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au or call Legal Aid on 1300 888 529. To protect public safety during the COVID-19 pandemic Legal Aid is not providing face-to-face advice or representation to defendants at courts and office doors are closed. You can still seek advice by phone or email to your local Legal Aid office.
  • Aboriginal Legal Service: keep up to date on the ALS website www.als.nswact.org.au or via the ALS Facebook page.
  • Law Society of NSW www.lawsociety.nsw.gov.au

No, unless you choose to attend or there is a need for you to give evidence. It is recommended that you liaise with the prosecutor as they will advise you if (and when) you need to attend.

All existing orders (interim, provisional and final) remain enforceable. For any immediate concerns, please contact NSW Police.

There have been substantial operational changes to local court proceedings to assist minimising the risks of COVID-19 to yourself and others. It is the preference that people residing in any area subject to ‘stay at home’ Public Health Orders (see above entry requirements) do not attend court at this time. However, support people will be permitted in limited circumstances as follows:

·       any support person must meet the strict entry requirements listed above

·       defendants facing sentence may have up to two support people

·       Persons in need of Protection in relation to a domestic or personal violence proceedings may have up to two support people

·       a defendant who is suffering from a mental health or cognitive impairment may have up to two support people provided the legal representative satisfies the Sheriff’s officer that there is a genuine need for the attendance of the support person(s).

·       victims of crime required to give evidence may have one support person.

 

 

If you would like to request an adjournment of your matter, you can contact the court registry by email and ask for an adjournment to another date. The email address and telephone number for local courts are found here. You can also call the Courts Service Centre on 1300 679 272.

The current Public Health Order does allow for attendance at court, however if you are currently located/ residing in another state/territory you are not required to physically attend the NSW Local Court proceedings, whilst border restrictions remain in place. This includes parties to proceedings, legal representatives, victims and witnesses. 

You must however advise the court in writing as soon as possible to make alternative arrangements for a “Virtual Appearance” or other form or appearance, or to seek an appropriate adjournment, see ‘How do I contact the court’. You can also enter a plea without physically attending a local court, see ‘entering a plea’.

List matters

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For all local court matters in a location subject to a ‘stay at home’ public health order (see Memorandum 22 and ‘entry requirements’ above) the following applies:

  • No physical appearance is required
  • Written notices of pleadings will continue to be accepted electronically including email.
  • Participants should seek to appear in writing (email), via telephone or AVL, see section 'how to contact a court'.
  • An email template can assist legal practitioners here

For all local court matters in a location NOT subject to a ‘stay at home’ public health order (see Memorandum 22 and ‘entry requirements’ above) the following applies:

 

Your matter may be dealt with without a physical appearance as follows:

  • If you are legally represented: legal representatives can make an appearance in writing (email), make a request/seek an adjournment and/or indicate a plea. Please use email template in Memorandum 22. 
  • If you are unrepresented: you can contact the court by email to request an adjournment (including reason) or you can enter a plea electronically or by email (see section ‘how do I enter a plea’ above). 

Wherever possible, defendants should provide an email address, residential address or mobile telephone number to facilitate communication with the court.

Entering a plea

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There is no need to attend court.

 

A plea can be entered by a defendant or their legal representative by completing a written notice of pleading form online at the NSW online registry. You do not need to have an account to complete and submit the form online.

 

A defendant can also download the:

and once complete email the form to the relevant court (see section 'how do I contact the court')

 

You will then be notified by email as to the next step in the process.  Legal representatives are to enter their appearance by email during these arrangements.

 

You should seek legal advice about this form before filling it in.

Committal Proceedings

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The following applies statewide:

 

If you are in custody you will appear via AVL.

 

If you are on bail, the prosecution must agree to you being physically absent you are not required to physically attend.

Sentencing proceedings

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For all local court matters in a location subject to a 'stay at home' public health order (see Memorandum 22 and 'entry requirements' above) the following applies:

  • Sentence proceedings will continue in some circumstances. If you are unable to attend, you MUST contact the court NO LATER than 3pm the day before your court date to either: request to appear remotely (via telephone or AVL),
  • request an adjournment, or
  • make an appearance in writing (via email)

Please see 'how to contact the court'. 

 

For all local court matters in a location NOT subject to a ‘stay at home’ public health order (see Memorandum 22 and ‘entry requirements’ above) the following applies:

 

You will need to physically attend court. Exceptions to this are as follows:

  • your offence is a fine only offence (you can request to appear remotely or your matter can be finalised in your absence)
  • you are in custody (defendants in custody will continue to appear via AVL)

 

You can seek legal assistance for your particular circumstances by contacting Law Access NSW. Visit the Law Access NSW website or call 1300 888 529.

 

Wherever possible, defendants should provide an email address, residential address or mobile telephone number to facilitate communication of the court’s response.

Hearings for pleas of not guilty

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For all local court matters in a location subject to a 'stay at home' public health order (see Memorandum 22 and 'entry requirements' above) the following applies:

 

Hearings where the defendant/accused is in custody may proceed in certain circumstances.

  • Where defendant can appear by AVL; witnesses are available and can appear remotely; and only the legal representatives can appear
  • By consent of all parties only – matters may proceed where defendant can appear by AVL; some or all witnesses are available and can appear in person or by AVL; and the legal representatives can appear
  • By consent and only where CSNSW can provide transport -matters may proceed where defendant can appear by AVL; some or all witnesses are available and can appear in person or by AVL; and the legal representatives can appear 

 

If you are not in custody, your hearing will only proceed if no witnesses are required or an application has been made to proceed and arrangements able to be accommodated. All other matters will be adjourned so please advise the court prior to your existing hearing date of any future dates of unavailability. Please see 'how to contact the court'. 

 

If you are unsure of your next court date or have a query, please contact the court service centre or email the relevant court. See question ‘how do I contact the court?’

 

Wherever possible, defendants should provide an email address, residential address or mobile telephone number to facilitate communication with the court.

 

For all local court matters in a location NOT subject to a ‘stay at home’ public health order (see Memorandum 22 and ‘entry requirements’ above) the following applies:

 

Hearings will proceed and require the physical of all participants (not in custody). Any participant who is in custody will appear via AVL.

 

Parties can make an application to appear remotely, however will be subject to approval and arrangements being able to be accommodated.

Miscellaneous

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Please do not attend any court in NSW in person without first contacting the relevant court, see section 'How to contact a court'

None of the current COVID-19 arrangements prevent a physical appearance before the court, except as may be applicable within the entry requirements above.

 

While applications can be made for an appearance by audio or audio visual link, such request will be subject the availability of such technology and suitability of the proceedings being dealt with in this manner (Note: legal practitioners should refer to the directions in full in the Chief Magistrates memorandums).

Due to COVID-19, face to face registry services across all of NSW are currently limited (or in some locations not available). Please do not attend a court in person without contacting the relevant court, see section 'how to contact a court'.

The following applies statewide:

 

Small claims hearings will remain listed and proceed via telephone (where possible). Parties must provide all statements via email no later than three days prior to the hearing. If parties object to the hearing being conducted via telephone they should notify the court as soon as possible to seek an adjournment, see section 'how to contact a court'.

Traffic Offender Intervention Program

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The Traffic Offender Intervention Program (TOIP) will not be delivered face-to-face during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are having difficulty participating in the course during COVID-19, you can contact the court and ask for the matter to be relisted or contact your local TOIP provider. If you need further information or have any questions, please email toip@justice.nsw.gov.au

Last updated:

20 Sep 2021

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