COVID-19 update: statement from the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria
For latest information (24 March) go to: Changes to operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Magistrates’ Court of Victoria has today announced a number of operational changes to assist the court to manage lists in these unprecedented times.
While all court venues remain open and operating, we are seeking to reduce physical appearances in our busy courthouses to increase social distancing.
First listing times for matters initiated by summons have been extended to at least 20 weeks while the first listing of matters where an accused is on bail will be at least 12 weeks.
Audio visual link technology will be used to maximum capacity to limit in-person appearances in court, and telephone appearances will be introduced where appropriate.
The Koori Court has been suspended immediately to protect the health of the elders and respected persons who are such an integral part of its operation.
Therapeutic courts and programs, including the Drug Court, ARC List and Court Integrated Services Program, as well as family violence practitioners, will modify practices to utilise telephone contact with participants as much as possible, including the potential for telephone appearances at the discretion of the Magistrate.
Among the other changes:
- VOCAT will utilise telephone for directions hearings at the discretion of the Magistrate
- Civil summons for oral examination to be adjourned for at least 20 weeks unless urgent
- Civil prehearings will be conducted by telephone
- Workcover hearings will be limited to matters where the only witness is the plaintiff and consent orders will be dealt with on the papers
- School visits and court events such as bench welcomes have been suspended
- Signage to be installed at the entry to all court venues asking people with flu-like symptoms, or those who have been directly or indirectly impacted by COVID-19, to phone the court before entering the building.
There is no change to listing times for family violence fast track matters - dates remain at 28 days for summons and seven days for bail.
The Chief Magistrate, Judge Lisa Hannan, said all other listings would continue as usual, however matters may be adjourned outside usual protocols at the discretion of Magistrates, Judicial Registrars and registrars.
“The safety of our staff, judicial officers, court users and stakeholders is our highest priority,” she said.
“We continue to follow State and Commonwealth government advice and are monitoring the situation closely. We are readying ourselves to implement a range of additional measures and anticipate making further announcements in the coming days.
“I thank our stakeholders and court users for their patience and understanding.
“The Magistrates’ Court is an essential part of Victoria’s justice system and committed to continuing to serve our community in these difficult times. By implementing changes now we are optimising our ability to continue to provide services as this situation evolves.”