The District Court of NSW have been using virtual and electronic proceedings since the beginning of lockdown in March. As a traditionally in-person and paper-heavy industry, this represented a major step forward for the law and digital services. In this article, we’ll explain how the courts will adapt for health and safety since recommencing in June and why criminal cases were delayed in the first place.
Criminal cases recommencing from June 2020
From 15 June 2020, the District Courts in Sydney, Parramatta and Newcastle have returned to hearing criminal trials before a jury. There are a number of health and safety measures which will be in place to minimise the risks of COVID-19. These include:
- One case to be heard per floor to minimise foot traffic in an area
- Juror rooms made bigger to allow for social distancing
- Jurors may sit in the public gallery to allow for social distancing
- Prospective jurors will receive a COVID-19 factsheet to ensure they’re prepared in advance for the new procedures
- Temperature and health checks before each day’s proceeding
- Hand sanitiser made available near lifts and in courtrooms
- Additional cleaning of courtrooms, bathrooms and other communal areas
- Signage confirming the number of persons allowed in a certain space
- Members of the media or public will be allowed to attend provided person limits are not exceeded and social distancing is upheld
From 1 July 2020, Local Courts around NSW introduced similar measures as Justice NSW allowed physical appearances by legal practitioners and defendants at each courthouse. Defended hearings involving witnesses and all other cases have resumed as normal, however each court house is applying strict rules and procedures to ensure the safety of everyone that attends.
If you or someone you know has had a criminal matter delayed, now is an ideal time to engage professional legal counsel. Contact our team on 1800 100 529 for a consultation.
Why were criminal cases excluded from virtual options?
The main reason criminal cases in the District Court were unable to proceed virtually was the necessity of a 12-person jury. It would be difficult to maintain a high quality of virtual proceedings for a large number of participants including the jury, defendant, prosecution, defence and judge. The risk became that without a seamless virtual trial, justice may be impacted. In comparison, civil cases either involved a judge-only trial or a small jury of 4-persons, allowing for swift adaptation to a virtual proceeding.
Read our previous blog for more information on NSW courts and bail in COVID-19.
Years of experience practicing criminal law
The team at Powerhouse Law have extensive experience handling criminal offences and bail applications. We pride ourselves on our competitive legal fees and personalised advice which helps ensure knowledgeable legal counsel is available to everyone in our community. Call 1800 100 529 for 24/7 legal advice or reach out online to arrange a consultation.