Vacated hearings in the local court
Earlier today the Chief Magistrate, his Honour Judge Peter Johnstone, announced that defended hearings state-wide (including those where the defendant is in custody) would be vacated until and including Friday, 4 February 2022. Those who have not already done so can read Memorandum 25A here.
The decision was made with due consideration to the scale and complexity of the Local Court’s operations, and the deleterious effect that soaring COVID-19 infections is having on the availability of staffing in the courts and emergency services and attendances by clients, witnesses and practitioners. The Bar Association continues to liaise closely with the Courts including in relation to the supply and use of RATs to ensure the smooth running of matters which can proceed while protecting the health and safety of the profession and court participants, in particular those with vulnerabilities.
Matters will remain listed for call over. Parties who are legally represented are excused from attendance and legal practitioners can appear via AVL or email to seek a further hearing date. Unrepresented parties are directed to make contact prior to the hearing date with the appropriate court registry and advise of any unavailable dates so that the matter can be given a further hearing date. Until further notice, all other matters are to proceed in accordance with memorandum 24.
This decision will disrupt the practices of many barristers who practise in the Local Court. Since the pandemic began, the Barristers’ Benevolent Fund has been available to assist members facing financial hardship in necessitous and deserving circumstances. Where COVID-19 related, applications may be in the form of a loan or grant. Loans may be on interest free terms. The terms of any loan will be reviewed 12 months from the granting of the loan. An online application form for COVID-19 related assistance is available here.
The Bar Association will continue to keep members up to date with events as they unfold. The Bar Association’s COVID Court Guide is reviewed daily and is available here.
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