COVID-19 – Changes to the Criminal Jurisdiction of the Local Court of NSW

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  1. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread disruption to the ordinary operation of the Local Court. As a result, a large number of proceedings have been impacted by delay and adjourned as the Court has moved to implement significant procedural changes in response to Government social distancing and stay at home recommendations.
  2. In NSW the rollout of changes commenced in late March 2020. Although most changes have now been in place for two weeks, additional directions on changes are being continually released by the Local Court.
  3. In consideration of numerous Memorandums published by the Local Court to date, a summary of the changes to ordinary court procedure and processes is detailed below:

Defended Hearings – in custody

  1. Hearings 30/03/2020 and 1/05/2020 – 
    1. Have been vacated, will not proceed and will be listed for mention at future date
    2. Original direction to adjourn for 8 weeks has been reviewed and proceedings at return mention are to be adjourned for further 8 weeks.
  2. Hearings 4/05/2020 and 31/07/2020 – 
    1. Will remain listed to permit release application by defendant
    2. Hearing will be vacated, will not proceed and will be listed for mention at a date 8 weeks after their original hearing date.
  3. Part-heard hearings before a specific Magistrate may proceed in some circumstances.

Defended Hearings – not in custody

  1. All hearings listed between 23 March 2020 and 31 July 2020 are to be vacated, will not proceed and adjourned for mention in either August or September 2020.
  2. Part-heard hearings before a specific Magistrate may proceed in some circumstances.

New custody matters

  1. All appearances by persons in custody are to be via AVL (audiovisual link) – no in person appearances
  2. Persons appearing in Court for the first time will appear via AVL from custody to a centralised Court location 
    1. Greater Sydney: Parramatta, Penrith, Campbelltown, Liverpool or Central
    2. Regional NSW: Wagga Wagga, Dubbo, Tamworth, Lismore, Port Macquarie, Newcastle or Wollongong
  3. If granted bail proceeding will be adjourned for mention to court where proceeding would ordinarily be listed.
  4. If refused bail proceeding will be adjourned for mention to court where proceeding would ordinarily be listed with defendant to appear via AVL.

Bail/release applications

  1. Applications must give 3 working days notice to Court and Prosecution.
  2. All application paperwork to be filed at Court where matter is listed to proceed before.
  3. All application paperwork is to be served on Prosecution at time of filing with Court Registrar.
    1. Greater Sydney: release applications to proceed before Downing Centre Local Court
    2. Regional NSW: release applications to proceed before Wagga Wagga, Dubbo, Tamworth, Lismore, Port Macquarie, Newcastle or Wollongong
  4. Consent bail variations may be considered by the Court Registrar

Sentence Proceedings

  1. Defendant in custody – 
    1. Defendant to appear via AVL from custody at sentence proceedings at Court where they are listed.
  2. Defendant not in custody – 
    1. If defendant potentially facing sentence of full-time imprisonment, proceedings to be adjourned for not less than 8 weeks.
    2. If defendant likely to receive sentence such as conditional release order, community corrections order or ICO, defendant required to attend court on date proceeding listed
    3. In some circumstances defendant not required to attend and sentence proceedings may be conducted in writing on behalf of defendant.

List & mention proceedings

  1. Police are being advised to listed Court attendances at least 8 weeks into the future.
  2. List matters can proceed without physical appearance as described below:
  3. Defendant legally represented – 
    1. Legal representative may enter appearance, make adjournment application and indicate plea in writing/email
    2. Legal representative will be advised of future listing date.
  4. Defendant not legally represented – 
    1. First mention – defendant may contact court in writing and request adjournment
    2. Indicating plea – defendant may contact court in writing and indicate plea
    3. Defendant will be advised of future listing date

EAGP (Early appropriate guilty pleas)

  1. Defendant legally represented – 
    1. Defendant in custody to appear via AVL
    2. Brief confirmation, charge certification and case conference mentions can be conducted in writing/email
    3. No physical appearance of legal representative or defendant required at brief confirmation, charge certification and case conference mentions
  2. Defendant not legally represented – 
    1. Brief confirmation, charge certification and case conference mentions can be conducted in writing/email
    2. No physical appearance of legal representative or defendant required at brief confirmation, charge certification and case conference mentions
  3. Appearance of legal representative and defendant is required at committal where pleas are to be entered.

No appearance by defendant

  1. Court will adjourn proceeding for not less than 1 month
  2. Court will notify defendant that if they do not appear on next occasion Court will deal with matter in their absence

Section 32 proceedings

  1. Remain listed and proceed where defendant represented and matter is ready to proceed.

AVO proceedings

  1. No defended hearings to proceed as detailed above in points 4-6.
  2. AVO and related criminal proceedings – to be adjourned so that both proceedings are listed together.
  3. AVO without related criminal proceedings – AVO mention to be adjourned for no less than 3 months.
  4. Where it is known that AVO is contested, the Court will set a timetable for service of evidence.
  5. Urgent new applications for private AVO or to vary or revoke AVO – 
    1. Contact to be made to Court by email outlining nature of application and reasons why application is urgent.
    2. Court to advise party of arrangements via email for Court to deal with application.

Local Court

Paul G

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