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 new arrangements.

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

Urgent applications

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Yes. Provisional AVOs will continue to be made. The court also continues to deal with urgent applications for variation or private AVOs. Listing of hearings have also now returned to normal.

All existing orders (interim, provisional and final) remain enforceable for the protection of the protected person(s).

There are no longer restrictions on filing any applications. It remains the preference that the court be contacted via email/phone prior to attending in person.

Contacting/ attending the court

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The current Public Health Order does allow for your attendance at court, however if you are currently located/ residing in Victoria 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’. If you wish to attend court however, the NSW Public Health Orders do provide an exemption which allows you to fulfil your legal obligations.

A list of the measures in place at court and tribunal locations can be found here.

In order to minimise the risk of all court users, the entry requirements include:

  • A person who is a party essential to a proceeding or the exercise of the relevant jurisdiction, including a party to the proceeding, legal representatives, witnesses, or someone requiring face to face registry services. Media representatives are also permitted. Up to two support persons are able to attend in limited circumstances, see question  ‘Can I bring a support person?’ 
  • that you do not have any flu-like symptoms (even mild) including fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath, or loss of taste or smell;
  • that you adhere to physical distancing whilst in the building at all times; and 
  • that you are temperature tested (at locations with a Sheriff’s Officer present) and your body temperature is less than 38 degrees.
  • have not travelled and returned from overseas or Victoria in the past 14 days
  • have not had contact with a diagnosed, suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days

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.

Sheriff’s Officers are conducting temperature testing at courts and tribunal locations, particularly those buildings that have a higher volume of people. This is a requirement of entry in response to COVID-19, with Sheriff’s Officers being authorised to perform temperature testing under emergency legislative provisions in the Court Security Act.

The temperature testing will be performed either using a thermal camera or hand held non- contact thermometer. If a person has an elevated body temperature of 38 degrees or over, or refuses to be screened, they will be refused entry into the building or required to leave.

If a person is refused entry or is required to leave the court premises on a day that they are required and are a witness, party to proceedings or legal practitioner, the person will be provided with a written notice which will be brought to the attention of the court. 

If you have not made arrangements with the court you MUST attend court on the day your matter is listed.  Arrangements are in place to minimise the need for people to come to court. Please review these FAQ for more information in relation to particular matters.

If you are advised by email/phone or your legal representative that you need to attend court, you must not attend if you:

  • have travelled and returned from overseas in the past 14 days
  • have had contact with a diagnosed, suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days
  • you are feeling unwell

You can call the Courts Service Centre on 1300 679 272 or email the court. The email address and telephone number for local courts are found here.

The court will contact you by email or telephone. Please ensure the court has your contact details and contact the court via telephone or email should these change.

You will receive an automatic email reply from the court to let you know your email has been received and actioned.

You can get information or legal support from;

The Law Society has summarised pandemic arrangements in which legal representatives can minimise court attendance, as approved by the Chief Magistrate’s Office. The summary is available at the following link:

https://www.lawsociety.com.au/sites/default/files/2020-08/Law%20Society%20COVID%2019%20Local%20Court%20appearance%20summary%20(1).pdf

No, unless 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.

Up to two support people will be permitted for the following circumstances:

  • a defendant in sentencing proceedings
  • person(s) in need of protection to a domestic or personal violence proceeding
  • a defendant who is suffering from a mental health or cognitive impairment condition

Support people must still abide by all other entry requirements, including appropriate physical distancing and temperature screening (where available).

Adjournments

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There are no longer automatic adjournments for particular matter types. If a party to a proceeding requires an adjournment, a written request can be submitted to the court prior to the listing date, or alternatively requested in person on the date of listing. It is noted however that the court will only grant adjournments where appropriate and the number of adjournments will be limited to ensure matters proceed to finalisation in a timely manner.

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

Bail

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All bail applications, including release applications and applications for review of bail are now made to the court where the proceedings are pending. Appearances will be via AVL where possible, this may require a change of court venue to assist such arrangements.

Applications for a review of bail must be:

  • Lodged via email or post using the application form; and
  • Requires a minimum of three days' notice before the court will consider the application (unless by consent or urgent application); and
  • Include the reasons why an application is being made and/or why changes to the bail conditions are sought.

Please email your application to the court where your matter is currently listed. For email addresses click here.

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.

Please note for committal proceedings, physical attendance is required when entering pleas for all strictly indictable offences or when an election has been made to proceed to District Court.

Sentencing proceedings

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If you are NOT in custody:

In relation to sentencing, if your matter results in a fine, it may be dealt with in your absence. A penalty notice will be sent to you in these circumstances. 

In all other circumstances, both the legal practitioner and their client must appear in person for finalisation of your matter.

If you are in custody:

These matters will proceed using AVL. Legal representatives may also appear via AVL (where possible) if such an application to do so has been granted by the court.

 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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Hearings will proceed as per the date on your latest listing notice. Legal practitioners must read the Chief Magistrate’s Memorandum (No.13) (in full). It is the intention of the courts for matters to proceed and adjournments will only be granted if reasonable justification can be provided.

For defendants in custody, hearings will proceed via AVL where facilities are able to accommodate this. For defendants not in custody, the defendant and their legal representative are expected to appear in person.

If you are unsure of your next court date, 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.

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

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