30 March 2020

Magistrates Court enacts stricter measures due to COVID-19 threat

| Dominic Giannini
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ACT Magistrates Court

New regulations have been put in place for the ACT Magistrates Court to help mitigate the health threat from COVID-19. Photo: File.

The ACT Magistrates Court has further reduced court activity as the uncertainly around the spread of COVID-19 continues to threaten public safety.

The new measures, enacted yesterday, are the fourth stage of the court’s response to the pandemic. They are designed to protect staff and court users alike, and include vacating all final hearings, enforcement hearings, cost assessments, commercial lease conciliations, Industrial Court worker’s compensation conferences and registrar hearings scheduled before 1 July.

Part-heard listings will continue subject to some date changes.

Acting Chief Magistrate and Chief Coroner Glenn Theakston said that the Court will still continue to receive and hear applications for interim family violence and personal protection orders.

“These applications must be filed by email or in hardcopy at the post box in the ACT Law Courts foyer,” he said.

Domestic violence (DV) has become the new focal point of the COVID-19 pandemic over the weekend after the Federal Government announced a $150 million package to support DV initiatives.

The support package comes amid a backdrop of increasing demand for crisis services, with the Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS) in Canberra recording a 27 per cent increase in demand in March.

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith welcomed the announcement from the Commonwealth Government, saying that DV services are needed more than ever.

“We know for many people, staying at home is a difficult thing to do, but for some, it is a dangerous thing to do,” she said.

“We need to make sure that those people in our community for whom home is not a safe place are well supported, and DVCS is a critical part of that support.”

All interim order applications will only be heard by telephone while other aspects of the court have been trimmed to a case-by-case basis.

The inspection of subpoenaed material and registry files for civil matters, adult criminal matters and protection orders will only be allowed in exceptional circumstances.

Criminal defendants will appear by audio or video link, and all defendants who are legally represented are excused from appearing at mentions or pre-hearing mentions.

Prior announcements regarding strict adherence to social distancing regulations, hygiene practices and self-isolation laws still apply.

More information can be found at the ACT Magistrates Court.

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