Message from the President
It has been more than a month since the COVID-19 pandemic has been recognised as a major health crisis and the public health measures implemented to address the spread of the virus began to seriously affect the Courts and practice at the Bar.
The Bar Association’s key priorities over this period have been to protect the personal health of our members, their clients and the community while working in conjunction with the courts on what steps can be taken to improve the efficacy of remote hearings and ensuring that, in the limited circumstances where members are physically appearing in court, they can do so in a manner that is appropriate, safe and in accordance with public health guidelines.
The Bar Association is continuing to pursue various issues ranging from court technology to broader assistance to the Bar with the courts, the Commonwealth and State Governments and specific agencies such as Legal Aid NSW and state and federal prosecuting authorities. We will continue to keep members informed in this regard.
I would like to add that recent developments have been positive. Although it is not possible at this stage to predict when things will return to normal, it has become apparent that the rate of COVID-19 infections in the community has slowed, which raises hopes that the current restrictions may not remain in place for an indefinite period. In the meantime, our clear sense is that heads of jurisdiction are doing all they can to find ways of making cases proceed and that the processes for remote hearings are improving. There is reason to think that the volume of matters that proceed will increase in coming weeks. There are also indications that court arrangements are becoming more workable, and that some public health measures may potentially be relaxed in the coming weeks; if this can occur, it may allow the courts greater flexibility.
The Bar Association is committed to doing all it can to assist with the return of practitioners to our courts and tribunals, as soon as that can be done safely and consistently with public health advice.
COVID-19 - Information for Attending Court
The New South Wales Bar Association’s consolidated guide to COVID-19-related court arrangements has again been updated in terms of recent developments.
Members are advised that, although the Bar Association is regularly updating the COVID-19 page of its website as information comes to hand, they should refer to the latest court resources directly as circumstances 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.
I would also like to draw members’ attention to a very useful document published by the Inns of Court College of Advocacy entitled Principles for Remote Advocacy which is available here
The Hague Conference has also now published through the Permanent Bureau a Guide to Good Practice on the Use of Video-Link under the Evidence Convention which is also worth reading. The Guide can be found here
I would also remind members that BarCare is available to assist members of the Bar Association to manage emotional and stress-related problems caused by financial difficulty, marital breakdown, drug or alcohol dependency and practice pressures.
If a member requires confidential assistance, he or she is encouraged to contact Jenny Houen, director, care and assistance, to arrange a consultation. Members in rural and regional areas can contact BarCare for assistance in locating an appropriate specialist closer to home. Alternatively, clerks and colleagues in chambers can make a confidential referral. Barristers and their families seeking assistance may contact one of the panel of specialists directly to make an appointment for a consultation.
To access more resources on stress, anxiety and depression, or to arrange a confidential consultation, visit barcare.org.au or contact Jenny Houen, BarCare's director, on 0427 317 958 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Bar Association is here to assist members with personal or professional difficulties that they may be experiencing in this challenging period.
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