After two years of pandemic-related disruptions and many local court matters being adjourned, or handled remotely, over the phone or via audio visual technology or other forms of electronic communication matters, normality is returning to the local courts in NSW.
That said, there are still health precautions in place – these include:
Masks are mandatory
Where directed by a presiding magistrate, Local Court attendees must wear a mask. Any exceptions to this will be considered by the presiding magistrate.
If you’re unwell, make alternative arrangements
If you need to attend court, but cannot for health reasons, you can make an application to adjourn proceedings (find another future date for the matter to be heard) or ask for the matter to be heard by Audio-Visual technology (AVL). Anytime you ask the local court to deviate from standard protocols of appearing in person, it’s advisable to get a medical certificate evidencing the health issue preventing your in-person appearance. You don’t always need one, but it helps with some Magistrates and some types of matters.
If you have to attend Local Court for a criminal matter you are expected to attend in-person unless an application has been made to adjourn the matter or for you to appear remotely.
This does not apply to weekend bail court arrangements in regional and rural areas. For weekend bails, solicitors generally (not always, but generally) appear via AVL link, with the defendant generally also appearing via AVL from the police station in which they are being held.
Of course, no matter what your circumstances, you can always apply for alternative arrangements to be made. These may or may not be granted by the Court. Having matters dealt with via AVL appearance will also depend on the availability of equipment in the area (for example, Murwillumbah and Mullumbimby courts do not have AVL facilities).
About the Local Court
The Local Court has about 155 locations across New South Wales. It deals with the majority of cases (about 95%) that come before the courts including civil matters (involving amounts of money up to $100,000) and also the majority of criminal cases, which start in the Local Court and may eventually progress to the District or Supreme Court.
The Local Court also conducts what are called ‘committal proceedings’ which are hearings to determine whether indictable offences will be committed to the District and Supreme Courts, and if they are committed to the District or Supreme Courts, whether that is for trial or sentence.
There is no jury in any civil or criminal proceedings in the Local Court.
The Local Court also deals with applications for apprehended violence orders.
The Local Court is a very busy place, and as such, anyone who is expected to appear at the Local court is requested to be prompt in order to avoid delays which can significantly impact the timeline for delivering justice. In some local courts, on busy ‘list days’, the court might have over 100+ matters on the court list – that’s 100+ matters the court must deal with in one way or another – whether that’s adjournments, sentencing, or other types of applications.
This post is informative only. It is not legal advice. If you have a specific legal matter you’d like to discuss, please contact us.
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