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Public Notice: COVID-19 Measures

Effective from 13 July 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. Entry to the Melbourne, Broadmeadows and Moorabbin Children’s Courts is restricted in accordance with the COVID-19 Entry Notice

In response to the government’s announcement to move to Stage 3 restrictions in Metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire, the Court has determined that with effect from 13 July 2020 all Family Division matters heard at the Melbourne, Broadmeadows and Moorabbin Children’s Courts will be heard remotely, subject to the current Practice Directions. All Criminal Division matters will be heard online via Webex, according to the current Practice Directions, at staggered listing times in accordance with the Social Distancing Measures listed below.
 
CASE MANAGEMENT
FILING
All documents must be filed electronically with the relevant Children’s Court registry.

FAMLY DIVISION cases will be managed in accordance with current Practice Directions.

  • Emergency Care applications – to proceed online via Webex
  • Protection applications issued by notice –will be listed for a first return date within four weeks to be conducted online via Webex
  • Mentions - to be adjourned on the papers with existing orders to be extended on the same terms & conditions, in accordance with Practice Direction No. 9 of 2020. Parties may apply for a reserved submissions hearing or conciliation conference.
  • Reserved Submissions – to continue online via Webex
  • Conciliation Conferences – to continue online via telephone, Microsoft Teams or Webex
  • Readiness hearings – to continue online via Webex
  • Family Drug Treatment Court reviews - to be conducted online via Webex
  • Marram-Ngala Ganbu – for further information please contact the Koori Services Coordinator on 9007 7616
  • Family Violence and Personal Safety intervention orders – urgent matters will be heard in accordance with current Practice Directions. All other matters will be adjourned for 8 weeks.
  • Children’s Court Clinic Assessments – are being conducted where it is safe to do so on a case  by case basis.

CRIMINAL DIVISION cases will be managed in accordance with current Practice Directions.

  • Fast Track Remand Court - will be heard at staggered listing times with child accused appearing through AVL, and legal representatives and prosecutors at Court.  Informants must be available by phone. The current 21-day remand arrangements remain in effect. However, legal representatives of children in custody are urged to file waivers wherever possible and children on remand who seek to appear at Court should appear by audio visual link or audio link.
  • All cases in which child accused have been charged on summons are to be adjourned for 8 weeks from the date of listing.
  • All cases in which the child accused is on on bail are to be adjourned (with bail extended/varied) to a date to be determined by the Court.
  • Urgent hearings as defined in paragraph 16 of Practice Direction 2. will be listed for either a remote hearing or heard at court. Parties will be informed as to the type of hearing and whether the child accused or informants are required to attend. 
  • Diversion applications and unopposed bail variations will be heard on the papers pursuant to current Practice Directions.
  • Children’s Court Clinic Assessments – clinical assessments continue to be undertaken with increased use of AVL facilities.
  • Koori Court – all Children’s Koori Court hearings are currently suspended.
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DIRECTIONS: ATTENDING AT CHILDREN’S COURTS

The following directions are given to users of the Court, including members of the public, and the legal profession to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all court users. These directions will remain in place until further notice.

  1. NO person is permitted to enter Children’s Court buildings if they:
    1. have tested positive for COVID-19
    2. have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19
    3. are waiting on the results of a test for COVID-19
    4. are required to be in isolation or quarantine
    5. are unwell, (including those with a fever, chills or sweats, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, loss of sense of smell.)
  2. Entry to the Court is restricted and will only be permitted in accordance with the Entry Notice.
  3. 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.
  4. If you are a party to child protection proceedings you should not attend Court in person unless you require the immediate face to face services of the registry. You can call Victoria Legal Aid on 1300 792 387 for legal advice. If you identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and prefer to be represented by an Aboriginal Legal Service, Victoria Legal Aid will help arrange a lawyer from Djirra or the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS). You can also contact these services directly:
  • Djirra - Aboriginal Family Violence Legal Service tel: 1800 105 303 (for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victim/survivors of family violence)
  •  VALS tel: 1800 064 865

If you are not able to contact a lawyer, contact the relevant registry. Registry staff will assist you to join the hearing remotely.

  1. Child accused and informants should not attend Court in person unless directed by the Court and must be available by telephone to provide instructions.
  2. People who are permitted to enter Children’s Court buildings in accordance with the COVID-19 Entry Notice must comply with safe hygiene practices including:
    • Washing hands and using the provided hand sanitiser on entry and before leaving the building
    • Avoiding personal contact (staying 1.5 metres away from others and following the visual cues that assist with this)
    • Coughing or sneezing into a tissue or the crook of the arm, not the hands, disposing of the tissue in a bin, and washing hand
  3. Court users will only be permitted into the courtroom when their matter is called.
  4. Court users must not enter a courtroom if the maximum number of people exceeds the number of people permitted for that courtroom, as indicated on the door of the court.
  5. Court users must not approach the bench clerk.

MEASURES

The Court has introduced the following measures to promote the health and safety of those people whose attendance is required or permitted at Court.

  1. All staff and judicial officers of the Court have been briefed on individual measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading.
  2. Hand sanitisers are available for use throughout Court buildings.
  3. Surfaces are cleaned and disinfected throughout the day and overnight.
  4. Sneeze guards have been installed at all counters.
  5. Signage indicates how to observe a 1.5m distances at counters, in corridors and waiting areas, and when seated.
  6. Every enclosed space has been measured and clearly displays the number of people who are permitted to enter to allow 4 square metres per person.

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.