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Public Notice: COVID-19 Measures

Updated 4 May 2020

DIRECTIONS TO COURT USERS, MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC AND LEGAL PROFESSION

The Children’s Court of Victoria remains open and operational at all venues.

In response to the impact of COVID-19 on the operations of the Children’s Court of Victoria, the following directions are given to users of the Court, including members of the public, and the legal profession.

All staff and judicial officers of the court have been briefed on individual measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading. Excellent hand hygiene, staying home if unwell, and social distancing are all measures that are recommended to stay healthy and reduce risk.   The Court has provided extra hand sanitisers throughout Court buildings and cleaning of all surfaces has increased. The Court has also introduced some changes to queuing at counters which will encourage appropriate distancing.

TO MINIMISE THE RISK OF INFECTION TO STAFF AND COURT USERS THE FOLLOWING PROCEDURES WILL BE IMPLEMENTED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE

ATTENDING AT CHILDREN’S COURTS

  • Entry to Children’s Courts is restricted in order to protect the safety of all persons at Court premises and for the good order and management of legal proceedings. Entry to Children’s Courts will be permitted in accordance with the attached Notice.
     
  • Wherever possible, court users are not to appear in person but rather by audio visual link (AVL) or by telephone. Please contact the relevant Children’s Court Registry to discuss arrangements.
     
  • The following people are NOT permitted to enter Children’s Court buildings:
    • People who have travelled overseas in the last 14 days
    • People who have been in contact with a person who has a confirmed case of the Coronavirus COVID-19
    • People who have flu-like symptoms: fever, coughing, sore throat, fatigue, and shortness of breath
  • Media entry to the Court remains unaffected.
  • People who enter Children’s Court buildings must comply with safe hygiene practices including:
    • Washing hands with the provided hand sanitiser on entry and before leaving the building
    • Avoiding personal contact (staying 1.5 metres away from others)
    • Coughing or sneezing into a tissue or the crook of the arm, not the hands, disposing of the tissue in a bin, and washing hands
       
  • Generally, court users will only be permitted in the courtroom when their matter is called.

FAMILY DIVISION

  • Families are not required to attend Court in person provided lawyers hold up-to-date instructions and are able to contact their client by telephone. People who are not parties to the proceedings are discouraged from attending the court unless they are applying to be joined as a party to the proceeding. 
     
  • Broadmeadows and Moorabbin Courts are open. Cases that are not adjourned in accordance with Practice Direction 1 of 2020 will be heard at those Courts from 11 May 2020. If you are not sure where your matter is to be heard, please contact the relevant Children’s Court Registry.
     
  • Children are not to be brought to Court, unless there are no other care arrangements available for them. DHHS is to facilitate a child speaking with their lawyer to obtain instructions by telephone or other electronic means. Children the subject of secure welfare applications are to appear before the Court by video link or telephone.
     
  • Conciliation Conferences - to assist in limiting face to face contact, conciliation conferences will be conducted by teleconference.
     
  • Clinic Assessments –any requests for clinical assessments made prior to 23 March 2020 will be reviewed. Thereafter any clinical assessments are suspended unless otherwise ordered by the Court.
     
  • Family Drug Treatment Court (FDTC) – with immediate effect, face to face meetings will cease but support will continue via electronic/telephone communication. Monitoring hearings will be conducted with participants attending by telephone.
     
  • Family Violence Intervention Orders – any pre-court meetings are suspended and parties are to liaise by electronic or other means prior to hearings.
     
  • Interpreting Services - if practicable, interpreting services will be provided through a Telephone Interpreter Service.
     
  • Consent / Unopposed proposed orders – to avoid unnecessary attendance at Court, in cases in which parties consent or do not oppose proposed orders being made, parties are to complete and file this electronic form which will be filed by DHHS Child Protection Litigation Office no later than one business day before the scheduled hearing date. The Court will notify the parties if attendance is required.

CRIMINAL DIVISION

  • Koori Court – all Children’s Koori Court hearings have been suspended.
     
  • Staggered Listings -– the Children’s Court of Victoria is reviewing Criminal Division listings and, where practicable to do so, will introduce staggered listings to assist in reducing the number of people in waiting areas
     
  • Children’s Court Clinic Assessments – clinical assessments will continue to be undertaken with increased use of AVL facilities. Unless otherwise ordered by the Court after consultation with the Director of the Clinic, all other clinical assessments will be suspended temporarily.
     
  • Charged on Summons – to be listed or adjourned for 12 weeks, unless otherwise directed by the Court.
     
  • On bail – to be adjourned (with bail extended/varied) to a date to be determined by the presiding judicial officer.
     
  • Consent / Unopposed proposed orders - to avoid unnecessary attendance at Court, in cases in which the prosecution and the accused consent / do not oppose an adjournment and / or extension / variation of bail, the prosecutor and legal representative of the child accused are to complete and file this electronic form which will be filed by the prosecution no later than one business day before the scheduled hearing date. The Court will notify the parties if attendance is required.
     
  • CAYPINS – all matters to be adjourned for 16 weeks.


EMERGENCY RESPONSE PLAN

A copy of the Children’s Court COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan, can be downloaded here

The Court’s priority at this difficult time for everybody is the health and safety of its staff and court users. 

Your patience and understanding is appreciated.

Regular updates to this advice will be published on the Court’s website and posted on the doors of Children’s Court buildings.