Changes to court operations - COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

The Local Court has made changes to its operations to reduce the risk of the spread of Coronavirus. The changes are outlined in the Chief Magistrate’s communications. Below is some general advice surrounding these arrangements.

Forms are available for defendants or their legal representatives to enter a plea in Local Court matters online through the Online Registry.

Entry requirements, contacting/ attending the court

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The following entry requirements will be strictly applied:

 

For all court matters located in a local court within Greater Sydney area (including Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour).

Until the expiration of the ‘stay at home’ Public Health Order, the following applies:

  • a person who is a participant in a proceeding, including a party, legal representatives, witnesses, support persons are not required to physically attend court unless you are in a sentence proceeding (please see section ‘sentence proceedings’). Please review these FAQ for more information about what you are required to do and contact the court for any enquiries .

 

For any person still required to attend:

  • MUST NOT have visited a hotspot or had contact with a diagnosed, suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days
  • MUST NOT have any flu-like symptoms (even mild) including fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath, or loss of taste or smell;
  • MUST wear a mask (unless evidence is produced of a medical exemption), AND
  • MUST adhere to physical distancing whilst in the building at all times.

 

For all other NSW local court matters

 

  • ONLY a person who is a participant in a proceeding, including a party, legal representatives, witnesses can attend court. Support persons are able to attend in limited circumstances.
  • For participants in proceedings there may be ways to minimise your physical appearance. You can contact the relevant court to either seek an appearance in writing, via alternate means or seek to have the proceedings adjourned. See ‘How do I contact the court’ - court contact details. You can also enter a plea without physically attending a local court, see ‘entering a plea’.
  • You MUST NOT have visited a hotspot or had contact with a diagnosed, suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days
  • You MUST NOT have any flu-like symptoms (even mild) including fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath, or loss of taste or smell;
  • You MUST wear a mask (unless evidence is produced of a medical exemption), AND
  • You MUST adhere to physical distancing whilst in the building at all times.

 

Please note that due to the changing health advice, additional entry requirements may apply. These requirements will align with the NSW Health advice on a particular day. 

 

Inability or refusal to adhere to these requirements will result in refusal of entry or a requirement that the person leave the premises.

You can call the Courts Service Centre on 1300 679 272 or email the court. The email address and telephone number for local courts are found here

You can get information or legal support from:

  • LawAccess www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au or call 1300 888 529 (Monday to Friday)
  • Legal Aid:  www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au or call Legal Aid on 1300 888 529. To protect public safety during the COVID-19 pandemic Legal Aid is not providing face-to-face advice or representation to defendants at courts and office doors are closed. You can still seek advice by phone or email to your local Legal Aid office.
  • Aboriginal Legal Service: keep up to date on the ALS website www.als.nswact.org.au or via the ALS Facebook page.
  • Law Society of NSW www.lawsociety.nsw.gov.au

No, unless you choose to attend or there is a need for you to give evidence. It is recommended that you liaise with the prosecutor as they will advise you if (and when) you need to attend.

All existing orders (interim, provisional and final) remain enforceable. For any immediate concerns, please contact NSW Police.

Greater Sydney region (including Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour)

 

There have been substantial operational changes to local court proceedings to assist minimising the risks of COVID-19 to yourself and others. Accordingly, for support people who wish to attend a local court proceeding within the Greater Sydney region (including Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour)  - Please do not attend a court in these locations for the duration of the ‘stay at home’ Public Health Order (see above entry requirements).

 

For the rest of NSW

Support people will be permitted in limited circumstances as follows:

the following limits apply to support people until the expiration of the 'stay at home' order:

·       any support person must meet the strict entry requirements listed above

·       defendants facing sentence may have up to two support people

·       Persons in need of Protection in relation to a domestic or personal violence proceedings may have up to two support people

·       a defendant who is suffering from a mental health or cognitive impairment may have up to two support people provided the legal representative satisfies the Sheriff’s officer that there is a genuine need for the attendance of the support person(s).

·       victims of crime required to give evidence may have one support person.

 

 

If you would like to request an adjournment of your matter, you can contact the court registry by email and ask for an adjournment to another date. The email address and telephone number for local courts are found here. You can also call the Courts Service Centre on 1300 679 272.

The current Public Health Order does allow for attendance at court, however if you are currently located/ residing in another state/territory you are not required to physically attend the NSW Local Court proceedings, whilst border restrictions remain in place. This includes parties to proceedings, legal representatives, victims and witnesses. 

You must however advise the court in writing as soon as possible to make alternative arrangements for a “Virtual Appearance” or other form or appearance, or to seek an appropriate adjournment, see ‘How do I contact the court’. You can also enter a plea without physically attending a local court, see ‘entering a plea’.

Attending court with Local Government Area Restrictions

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You may not need to attend court in person, please call or email the court to find out how you may be able to make alternate arrangements. 

You may not need to attend court in person, please call or email the court to find out how you may be able to make alternate arrangements. 

List matters

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For all court matters located in a local court within Greater Sydney area (including Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour) 

For matters listed for mention or of a procedural nature, the following applies:

  • Written notices of pleadings will continue to be accepted electronically including email.
  • Participants should seek to appear in writing (email), via telephone or AVL, see section 'how to contact a court'.

 

For all other NSW local court matters

 

Matters not listed for hearing or sentence may be dealt with without a physical appearance as follows:

 

If you are legally represented: your legal representative may enter an appearance, make a request (eg seek an adjournment) and/or indicate a plea to the court in writing/ by email.

 

Where a plea of not guilty is entered: the court will make orders for the service of the brief of evidence if required and advise the legal representative by email.

 

If you are unrepresented: prior to your first appearance, you may contact the court by email with a request for an adjournment, including the reason for the request.

 

If you are seeking to enter a plea, you may do so in writing.  

 

Wherever possible, defendants should provide an email address, residential address or mobile telephone number to facilitate communication with the court.

Entering a plea

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There is no need to attend court.

 

A plea can be entered by a defendant or their legal representative by completing a written notice of pleading form online at the NSW online registry. You do not need to have an account to complete and submit the form online.

 

A defendant can also download the:

and once complete email the form to the relevant court (see section 'how do I contact the court')

 

You will then be notified by email as to the next step in the process.  Legal representatives are to enter their appearance by email during these arrangements.

 

You should seek legal advice about this form before filling it in.

 

Please note for committal proceedings, physical attendance is required when entering pleas for all strictly indictable offences or when an election has been made to proceed to District Court (unless an application has been made and granted for attendance by alternative means).

Sentencing proceedings

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For all court matters located in a local court within Greater Sydney area (including Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour) 

Sentence proceedings will continue to occur (where possible). Defendants in custody will appear by AVL, unless an order has been made to attend in person.

 

If you are on bail and awaiting a sentence assessment report, the court will require your attendance (as well as your legal representative).

 

For any other defendants on bail, you or your legal representative should contact the court in writing to request an appearance in writing, make an application for Telephone/AVL appearance, or seek an adjournment.  Please note: fine only offences may be finalised in your absence. Please see 'how to contact the court'. You must contact the court NO LATER than 3.00pm on the day prior to your court date.

 

For all other NSW local court matters

The physical appearance of the defendant and his or her legal representative is required at sentencing, except for as follows:

  • fine only offences, or
  • an application has been made and granted for attendance by alternative means.

Defendants in custody will appear by AVL, unless an order has been made to attend in person.

 

 You can seek legal assistance for your particular circumstances by contacting Law Access NSW. Visit the Law Access NSW website or call 1300 888 529.

 

Wherever possible, defendants should provide an email address, residential address or mobile telephone number to facilitate communication of the court’s response.

Hearings for pleas of not guilty

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For all court matters located in a local court within Greater Sydney area (including Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour) 

 

Hearings for pleas of not guilty listed between 28 June 2021 and 27 August 2021 will no longer proceed, participants are NOT required to attend court [Please note that if parties wish for such a matter to proceed (and do not require the attendance of any witnesses) - an application to proceed with consent of all parties may be made to the court]

 

In general, hearings will remain listed for mention on the date they are currently set for the hearing so you or your legal representatives must notify the court via email of the status of the proceedings NO LATER THAN 3.00pm on the day prior to the listing.

 

If you are unsure of your next court date or have a query, please contact the court service centre or email the relevant court. See question ‘how do I contact the court?’

 

For all other NSW local court matters

 

If you are in custody, hearings will proceed via AVL where facilities are able to accommodate this. For defendants not in custody, the defendant and their legal representative are expected to appear in person (unless an application has been made and granted for attendance by alternative means).

 

If you are unsure of your next court date, please contact the court service centre or email the relevant court. See section ‘how do I contact the court?’

 

Wherever possible, defendants should provide an email address, residential address or mobile telephone number to facilitate communication with the court.

Miscellaneous

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Please do not attend any court in NSW in person without first contacting the relevant court, see section 'How to contact a court'

None of the current COVID-19 arrangements prevent a physical appearance before the court, except as may be applicable within the entry requirements above.

 

While applications can be made for an appearance by audio or audio visual link, such request will be subject the availability of such technology and suitability of the proceedings being dealt with in this manner (Note: legal practitioners should refer to the directions in full in the Chief Magistrates memorandums).

Due to COVID-19, face to face registry services across all of NSW are currently limited (or in some locations not available). Please do not attend a court in person without contacting the relevant court, see section 'how to contact a court'.

Small claims hearings will remain listed and proceed via telephone (where possible). Parties must provide all statements via email no later than three days prior to the hearing. If parties object to the hearing being conducted via telephone they should notify the court as soon as possible to seek an adjournment, see section 'how to contact a court'.

Traffic Offender Intervention Program

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The Traffic Offender Intervention Program (TOIP) will not be delivered face-to-face during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are having difficulty participating in the course during COVID-19, you can contact the court and ask for the matter to be relisted or contact your local TOIP provider. If you need further information or have any questions, please email toip@justice.nsw.gov.au

Last updated:

29 Jul 2021

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