Transitioning to virtual proceedings

25/03/2020

COVID-19: A message from President Tim Game SC

This afternoon I, along with the Senior and Junior Vice-Presidents, attended a teleconference with the Chief Justice, the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Hulme, the Chief Judge of the District Court and the Chief Magistrate, along with the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Senior Public Defender, to discuss ongoing COVID-19-related arrangements in these jurisdictions. I am grateful to the Chief Justice for convening the teleconference which provided a very good opportunity to exchange information and identify concerns and potential solutions to the problems confronting the courts and the profession at this time.

A subject of particular focus was transitioning to virtual proceedings, including in criminal matters to the extent that is feasible.

At the meeting I also took the opportunity to raise a number of matters that had been brought to my attention by members. The Courts are very much moving towards the situation where matters are dealt with remotely where it can be achieved. In that context, I would encourage members to use their best efforts to have their matters dealt with by remote means if it will not prejudice the interests of their clients.

It was made clear that all Court of Criminal Appeal matters would proceed remotely for the time being and to the extent they can be dealt with in that manner. There was also an indication that the Court would be willing to hear appeals that are not yet listed if the parties are able to bring them on for hearing. In these appeals, barristers will be expected to wear bar jackets and jabots, but not wigs and gowns.

I also indicated that the civil bar has shown a great willingness to proceed by remote means where that is feasible.

The dialogue between the Bar and the courts will be an ongoing one, and I will keep members updated as to further developments.

As I have mentioned previously, the Courts have indicated that they will be flexible in regard to the needs of members as these new arrangements come into force. The Association will provide members with as much assistance as possible, but I would also encourage members who are having difficulties regarding COVID-19-related issues, whether they be technological or health and safety-related, to also bring this to the attention of the Court.

I would also like to draw members' attention to the New South Wales Bar Association's consolidated guide to COVID-19-related court arrangements in NSW and Federal Courts and Tribunals. The guide covers information for those attending court as well as up to date information on procedural changes being made in view of the coronavirus pandemic in the various jurisdictions. The guide has been updated in terms of recent developments and includes today's updates:

Members are advised in this regard that, although the Bar Association is regularly updating the COVID-19 page of its website as information comes to hand, please refer to the latest court resources directly as developments are changing quickly at this time. Do not make any assumptions regarding your case without first doing so. Links to the various court and tribunal pages are provided in the body of the guide.

Finally, on behalf of the Bar Council and our members more generally, I would like to thank the Executive Director and all staff of the Bar Association for their efforts in the past few weeks. We have been asking a lot of them, including at short notice and after hours. Everyone has risen to the challenges that these difficult circumstances present in their respective areas of responsibility, and we are very grateful for the support they have provided and continue to provide.


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