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.
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, Notice #6). As of May 25 Notices #2, #3, #4 and #5 are amended and rescinded to the extent provided in Notice #6.
- 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 resumed the conduct of jury trials from Monday, 22 June 2020. In making that determination, the Court has consulted with the Chief Health Officer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, NTLAC, NAAJA and the President of the Bar Association. The Sheriff’s Office has developed and will implement a Jury Safety Protocol for the conduct of trials.
- Any difficulties with witnesses subject to travel restrictions in matters listed for trial will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis at pre-trial hearings.
Front counter services
- The public counters for the Civil Registry and Sheriff’s Office in Darwin, and the public counter for the Supreme Court Registry in Alice Springs, reopened on Monday, 15 June 2020
Other Supreme Court matters
- Temporary Practice Direction 1 of 2020 for electronic filing in civil matters will continue until the commencement of electronic filing under Odyssey Integrated Case Management System (currently scheduled for October 2020).
- Temporary Practice Direction 2 of 2020 for electronic filing or lodgement in criminal matters will continue with amendments to give practitioners the option of filing or lodging in that form.
- Persons in custody will continue to appear by audiovisual link except at trial. A party who wishes the accused to appear in person may submit a brief outline by email to the Presiding Judge’s Associate explaining the reasons for the request and the Judge may grant the application.
- Pre-trial hearings, mentions and directions hearings reverted to face-to-face hearing on Monday, 1 June 2020. A party who wishes the matter to proceed by audio-visual or telephone hearing rather than face-to-face may submit a brief application by email to the Presiding Judge’s Associate explaining the reasons for the request and the Judge may grant the application.
- From May 18 physical court appearances recommenced with court cells re-opened for some matters in Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs. Physical distancing rules of 4sqm per person and 1.5m between people will be maintained in court facilities.
- Court Registrar and front counter services will resume.
- Tennant Creek Local Court is due to resume operations on 1 June.
- From 1 July non-custody hearings recommenced and courts were again able to run proceedings in Circuit Courts (subject to the cancellation of Biosecurity Act restrictions).
- Some changes made will remain, including e-filing of documents and the hearing of bail applications on country. Consent applications will be heard in Chambers.
Local Court Resumed Service Plan
NTCAT (Updated May 5)
- This notice, which takes effect on 5 May 2020, replaces all previous COVID-19 notices.
- In light of improvements in the situation in the Northern Territory and nationally as the Coronavirus Pandemic continues, NTCAT has relaxed some of the measures put in place on 26 March 2020.
- Although a complete return to conventional operations is not yet possible, the following measures are designed to enable the tribunal to deal promptly and fairly with proceedings that have been affected by the 26 March 2020 measures (and with new proceedings).
Restoration of cancelled listings
Effective immediately, NTCAT will commence creating new listings for all matters that had listings cancelled as a result of the 26 March 2020 measures.
Cancelled hearings (including directions hearings) and compulsory conferences will be relisted according to the order in which they were originally listed.
Affected parties will receive orders setting out the new arrangements. If, at the time of the cancellation of the listing, there were procedural deadlines that had not arrived, the orders may include adjusted deadlines.
Physical attendance at listings
Effective 18 May 2020, the requirement for remote participation at NTCAT listings will cease.
From that date, parties will once again be expected to attend in person at the tribunal for listings (hearings and compulsory conferences); however, NTCAT will continue to observe and enforce any current social distancing or other relevant safety requirements.
A party wishing to participate at a listing by remote means will once again need to make an application for NTCAT’s permission to do so. Legitimate concerns about COVID-19 vulnerability may be raised in support of such an application.
Applications accepted while the 26 March 2020 measures were in place
Effective immediately, NTCAT will recommence processing accepted Initiating Applications that were placed in abeyance due to the 26 March 2020 measures.
Affected applications will be processed according to the date on which they were accepted by NTCAT.
Other new applications
Effective immediately(*), NTCAT will resume accepting and processing Initiating Applications for new matters.
(*There may be some small initial delay as the tribunal works through the backlog of accepted applications held in abeyance – see above.)
Adjusted Standard Orders
In line with its usual practice, NTCAT will make standard orders (tailored to the matter type) when returning accepted Initiating Applications to applicants.
The standard orders will include slightly enlarged timetables for procedural steps (for example serving the Initiating Application and providing a Response) to allow for extra difficulties and inconvenience parties may experience as a result of the COVID-19 emergency.
NTCAT remains unable to accept hard copy documents. A party wishing to submit any document (including an Initiating Application) to NTCAT may only do so by electronic means.
Re-opening of registries
Effective immediately, NTCAT’s physical registries in Darwin and Alice Springs will be reopened to the public; however, as noted above, hard copy documents will not be accepted by NTCAT staff.
Members of the public may also 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/