Understandably the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on the running of courts as they have taken steps to comply with local and national health advice and implement social distancing measures.
Given offending pursuant to the Bankruptcy Act 1966 is prosecuted in State and Territory courts across the country, this has meant different practices have been put in place depending on the jurisdiction the matter is being heard in. COVID-19 risks have meant that many non-urgent summary hearings and jury trials have been adjourned.
Generally, speaking in person appearances have been limited with courts taking advantage of different technologies to allow appearances via video link and where that is not possible via telephone. Challenges in relation to tendering documents have been overcome by the parties, with consent, emailing documents to the court in advance of appearances.
Specific information in relation to the practices in place in particular jurisdictions can be found on court websites. Overall the CDPP has found that those involved in the criminal justice system have shown flexibility, a willingness to embrace new technologies and a commitment to ensuring that wherever possible matters continue to be progressed during this time.
In line with local and national government advice, courts are beginning to plan a return to the “new normal” with more face-to-face appearances and the resumption of jury trials. The speed at which this progresses is dependent on a number of factors including the effects of easing of restrictions.
The CDPP is hopeful that after the pandemic, where appropriate, there will continue to be an increase in remote appearances including by witnesses given the efficiencies this can deliver and that the technologies that provide for this have been tested.
Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions