New NSW Chief Justice releases updated Supreme Court COVID protocols

Newly appointed New South Wales Chief Justice Andrew Bell has released a revised set of COVID protocols relating specifically to the NSW Supreme Court, and another set that separately addresses the conduct of criminal trials before a jury in the highest court in the state.

These updated protocols went into effect on April 4.

The onset of COVID-19 in March 2020 saw court operations in NSW take a hit. In mid-March, all jury trials were suspended, and from the end of the same month judge-alone trials were suspended, along with a number of regular cases to be brought before the magistrates.

Some hearings continued if it was possible to conduct them by audio-visual link. And in mid-June that year, as cases dwindled, some restrictions began to be lifted and it was thought the courts would soon return to the way they formally operated.

However, as we all know, it wasn’t that simple as variants of COVID kept emerging.

The latest set of COVID protocols, which came into effect on January 31 this year, was issued by former Chief Justice Tom Bathurst and required all participants in court proceedings to be fully vaccinated, wear a mask and continue to register using a QR Code.

So, these new guidelines are the next step in an ongoing process of moving away from the Supreme Court shutdown in the new environment called living with the virus. And perhaps rather than marking a gradual return to normalcy, they serve to develop a whole new way of operating.

Live audiences are back

Live hearings have returned to the Supreme Court of NSW with up to four cases listed for each floor of the Queen’s Square building, which will include appeals and reviews. In-person hearings have also returned to the King Street, St James Road, Darlinghurst and Hospital Road complexes.

Unless otherwise advised, all parties should now assume that substantive hearings and contested cases, including bail applications, will be heard before a judge live in a courtroom. And the judicial officer will stagger things as much as possible.

If an attorney or client is unable to attend court at the scheduled time, due to contracting COVID or for any other health-related reason, such as being a close contact, they should send an email to the roster judge’s or chief justice’s associate to arrange for the case to continue via audio-visual link.

Such a request must have the opposing party copied in the request and must clearly state the reason why the proceedings cannot continue in person.

And while live business is back, some proceedings will remain via audiovisual link until further announced. These include issues relating to the list of registrars and uncontested issues of the list of judges. And Duty Judge cases will continue to be handled through AVL until further notice.

Enter the Supreme Court

As for appearing in court, most COVID restrictions remain. Participants must be at least double vaccinated or have proof of medical exemption, and it is up to the lawyers to obtain documented proof as this is a requirement for entry and without it entry will be refused.

Masks must be worn in all public places on the courts. And everyone in the courtroom must wear one, except for the judge, anyone speaking during the proceedings, or if anyone has proof of a medical exemption.

QR records are still available but are no longer required.

In terms of courtroom capacity, the rule of one person per two square meters applies. The capacities of each room are displayed at the entrance.

However, this rule does not apply to ceremonies sitting in the Banco Court, or the List courtroom, where hearings will be staggered.

Court proceedings will be open to the media and the public, as long as vaccination status requirements are met, and where possible, audio-visual links to court proceedings will continue to be available online.

Criminal Jury Trials

When it comes to the conduct of criminal trials, health concerns will remain paramount. Participants who feel unwell should notify the court. And additional cleaning and hygiene facilities are currently operating at Darlinghurst and King Street facilities.

A ‘trial bubble’ is now established for every criminal case, with all participants required to be double-vaccinated, with the possible exception of the accused, as well as anyone else officially approved by the court not to. ‘be.

Participants are now required to perform rapid antigen tests regularly, while attorneys and other parties who cannot attend due to COVID-related concerns will be able to apply to participate via an AV link.

Recent amendments to Jury Regulation 2015 (NSW) have made it possible to seek up to three additional jurors for cases likely to last two weeks or more, with a view to addressing conditions in which a juror may have to withdraw due to contraction of COVID.

If a presiding judge deems it necessary, he or she may agree with the legal representatives of both parties at the venue of the trial to discuss matters relating to the administration of the provisions intended to prevent possible situations of transmission of COVID from occurring. occur during a trial.

Rapid antigen screening

Rapid antigen sites have been established near each Supreme Court site. The process, which takes 15 minutes to get a result, will be administered via NSW Health guidelines. And the tests are said to reinforce other preventative measures such as vaccinations, masks and distancing.

Prior to incorporation, the sheriff’s office will oversee the testing of all potential jurors and those who test positive will be asked to return home.

Other judges, staff, the accused, prison staff and any other participants in the trial will have to be tested on the first day of the proceedings.

Once the test bubble is established, participants will be required to undergo rapid antigen testing every other day at the sites at the specific location. And those who test positive will be sent home to self-isolate for seven days, while other attendees will have to monitor their symptoms.

The provisions of the trial bull will apply to any other persons required for the purposes of the trial, and in the case of an interpreter or an unvaccinated witness, they may be able to attend via an audio-visual link.

These protocols apply to all Regional Supreme Court cases and will continue to apply until further notice.

The NSW Chief Justice’s papers also note that air filters in air conditioning systems have been upgraded or continue to be upgraded across the NSW Supreme Court system. .

About Jessica J. Bass

Check Also

Lawyers for former Fort Worth officer tell court they are needed elsewhere on murder trial date | PA

FORT WORTH, Texas — Two attorneys who represent a former Fort Worth police officer who …