Courts and Tribunals COVID-19 response
NT Courts and Tribunals have been enacting plans to help prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Here is a guide to some of the measures that are being undertaken.
- Supreme Court (including for jurors). *Note* Jurors summonsed to appear in April are not required to be at court on Friday, April 3 as the summons notice says.
- Local Court
- Children’s Court
- Map of circuit courts affected by suspensions
Information on best dealing with the threat of the virus is being updated as circumstances change. Updated advice from the Australian Government is available on its “Find the Facts” page.
All NT Courts have placed signage at entrances encouraging people not to enter, and make alternative arrangements if they meet any of the widely acknowledged screening criteria.
The Courts will be acting in accordance with advice from Government health authorities to ensure consistency among public institutions to avoid confusion and unnecessary disruption.
Different courts have been taking different measures, depending on the specialist needs separate areas may have.
- All notices to Practitioners, Litigants and the Visiting public are available online (Notice #1, Notice #2, Notice #3, Notice #4, Notice #5).
- The Supreme Court will be adopting the following procedures in relation to the categories of hearing set out below.
- This notice will be updated as the circumstances require.
- The Supreme Court has as a precautionary measure suspended all new trials requiring a jury until 5 June 2020.
- This decision has become necessary as a consequence of the restrictions imposed by the Federal and Territory Governments.
- Anyone who has been summonsed for jury duty during the month of April will no longer be required during that time, but should expect a summons when jury trials recommence.
- Current trials where a jury has already been selected and empanelled will continue.
- This suspension has no bearing on matters which have been listed for the prerecording of evidence or voir dire hearings which do not require the selection and empanelment of a jury. Those matters will proceed as presently listed.
- In taking this step the Court is conscious of the impact this action will have on the administration of justice. Jury trials will resume as soon as practicable, in a manner consistent with the health and safety of the public.
- For matters which are currently listed for trial by jury in the period up to 5 June 2020, the Presiding Judge’s Associate will make arrangements with the parties for the conduct of a pre-trial hearing to deal with matters relating to:
- the vacation of the existing dates and referral to the criminal call overs on 4 June 2020 (for Darwin matters) or 10 June 2020 (for Alice Springs matters);
- programming orders;
- the hearing of legal issues that can be addressed prior to trial; and
- custody and bail.
- The procedures advised below for the conduct of pre-trial hearings will apply to those hearings.
- A decision will be made one month prior to 5 June 2020 to determine whether it is necessary for the suspension to continue after date.
Pre-trial hearings, mentions and directions hearings
- Approximately one week out from the listing the Presiding Judge’s Associate will make contact with the parties to advise that the matter will be heard by audio-visual link (if facilities are available in the practitioners’ offices) or telephone. The parties should provide their contact details to the Presiding Judge’s Associate and the relevant Registry no later than 4:00pm two business days prior to the listing.
- Where it is a criminal matter, the accused will be excused from attending if legally represented.
- In the event the parties are in agreement that the matter can be dealt with by consent, the parties may submit their request and the proposed orders by email to the Presiding Judge’s Associate for consideration by the Judge, who may grant leave for the matter to be dealt with in Chambers and make the orders.
- A party who wishes the matter to proceed by face-to-face hearing rather than by audio-visual or telephone hearing may submit a brief outline by email to the Presiding Judge’s Associate explaining the reasons for that position and the Judge may determine that counsel should appear in person.
- Approximately one week out from the listing the Presiding Judge’s Associate will make contact with the parties to advise that where the accused is remanded in custody he or she will appear by audio-visual link from the prison.
- In the event of any clash with another plea at that time which will also be conducted by audio-visual link from the same prison some adjustment of the hearing times may be required.
- A party who wishes the accused to appear in person rather than audio-visual link may submit a brief outline by email to the Presiding Judge’s Associate explaining the reasons for that position.
- Pre-trial hearings are to be conducted by way of audio link where possible.
Associate Judge's List
- For Criminal Call Overs, where the accused is remanded in custody he or she will appear by audio-visual link from the prison unless previously excused from attending if legally represented.
- The Associate Judge’s list will otherwise be conducted exclusively by audio-visual link or telephone.
Front counter services
- To ensure the safety of staff, practitioners, litigants and the visiting public, from Wednesday, 1 April 2020 the public facing counters in Supreme Court Civil Registry and Sheriff’s Office will be closed.
- While the counters are closed, the registries will still be operating to provide services and support to practitioners, litigants and the wider community by telephone and email.
- Practice Direction 1 of 2020 and 2 of 2020 provide directions in relation to the management of criminal and civil proceedings during closure of the public counters, including the filing, issuing and transmission of court documents.
- Full details are available at the Supreme Court of the NT Notice #4 and Notice #5.
- Due to the COVID-19 situation, the admission ceremony scheduled to be held in the Supreme Court on 5 May 2020 has been cancelled.
- Despite the need to cancel the ceremony, applications for admission to legal practice in the Northern Territory will continue to be processed and heard by the Court on an individual basis to ensure that a candidate's entry to the profession is not delayed. Applications for admission will be heard separately and before a single Judge, rather than collectively before the Full Court as is ordinarily the case.
- If a candidate wishes to defer proceedings until travel restrictions have been lifted to allow friends and family from interstate to attend that will be accommodated.
- Local Court has suspended all circuit court services effective immediately (these are the court locations listed on the below map).
- Mentions are to be conducted by way of audio link where possible.
- For custody mentions, prisoners should appear by audio-visual link from the prison where possible, unless excused if legally represented.
- Court services in Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs will continue operating with some changes. It is planned for circuit courts to resume on 1 May 2020 as per the current court calendars, and additional days may be required, but the situation is being monitored and may change.
- Matters affected by these measures will be heard in their base jurisdiction in order to be adjourned. i.e. all Lajamanu Local Court matters listed on 17 March 2020 will be heard at Katherine Local Court on the 17 March 2020.
- Circuits which involve multiple sitting days all matters will be heard in the base jurisdiction on the first day of the sitting in order to be adjourned. i.e. all Alyangula Local Court matters listed 17-19 March 2020 will be heard in Darwin Local Court on 17 March 2020.
- Custody matters will be dealt with in the base jurisdiction with defendants appearing by AVL from correctional facilities at first instance. Where possible, matters will proceed from the base jurisdiction.
- Katherine Local Court will be open and sitting on the previously listed circuit court days.
- There will be extra phone and AVL resources made available to assist lawyers to take instructions from clients at the Darwin Correctional Centre in Holtz and in the Alice Springs Correctional Centre.
- In an effort to limit the number of people attending court in person, some court matters will now be dealt with electronically, with measures for electronic filing, and appearances via telephone and AVL being fast-tracked. No application from lawyers is necessary, it will be assumed you will be appearing by phone. As usual, urgent domestic violence orders can be dealt by audio link.
- The NT Local Courts have hand sanitiser available and put signage in courtrooms about hygiene and social distancing.
- If anyone is in doubt about what is happening with their Court matter they should ring the closest Court registry
- A practice direction allowing electronic filing will be released.
Map of Local Court circuit courts affected by the suspension.
- As per adult court custodial matters, if a youth is detained after arrest their first appearance in court will be via video from a youth detention centre, or by telephone from a police watch house.
- Youths, when represented, need not attend court unless the matter is expected to finalise.
- All youths in detention are to appear via AVL.
- The court and registry will be encouraging the use of AVL and telephone communication. Responsible adults may appear by telephone or AVL.
NTCAT (Updated March 26)
- This notice, which is issued on 26 March 2020, replaces all previous COVID-19 notices.
- The following measures are now in effect in order to ensure that NTCAT remains operational in critical areas.
Effective 24 March 2020, NTCAT has cancelled all but urgent listings. The cancellation affects all listings (hearings, directions hearings, compulsory conferences) at which parties were required to participate.
In addition, new listings will only be created for urgent matters.
Limited processing of new applications
Similar restrictions apply to new proceedings. NTCAT will continue to receive and accept new applications, but no new proceeding will proceed past acceptance unless it is classified urgent.
Applicants should also clearly understand that once NTCAT has accepted an application and processed the relevant filing fee, the fee will not be refunded.
Applicants whose applications:
- are not urgent; or
- are not required to be lodged in order to meet an applicable limitation period;
should therefore consider deferring the commencement of proceedings until the COVID-19 emergency has abated.
For the measure above, the following matters are classified urgent:
- matters in which there is a clear risk to a person’s health or safety; and
- matters where a landlord or tenant seeks termination of a residential tenancy.
Matters outside those categories will only be allowed to proceed if the applicant can demonstrate clear urgency on some other basis. Compelling reasons will be necessary.
If a matter is listed for a hearing, participation will only be permitted by remote means. NTCAT will contact parties about the necessary arrangements.
A party wishing submit any document (including an application) to NTCAT may only do so by electronic means.
- NTCAT’s physical registries in Darwin and Alice Springs are closed to the public until further notice.
- You may contact NTCAT on 1800 604 622 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Updates and further information
- NTCAT will constantly review these restrictions in the coming weeks and months.
- Details of current measure will be published on the NTCAT website at https://ntcat.nt.gov.au/