Courts to continue with permanent COVID measures

In a previous update on the Victorian Courts and Tribunals, we considered how disputes will continue to be managed and determined this year as State Government restrictions begin to ease in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Generally, the Victorian Courts and Tribunals will continue to largely manage matters online and in response to this, on 23 March 2021, the Victorian Parliament passed the Justice Legislation Amendment (System Enhancements and Other Matters) Bill 2021. Under this legislation, previous temporary COVID-19 measures relating to the administration of justice will now be given a permanent status from 26 April 2021.

The Bill aims to permanently amend various legislation to provide for the on-going operation of certain processes and procedures implemented in the Victorian Courts and Tribunals during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include enabling Courts to hear a broader range of matters using audio visual link and pass suitable decisions without requiring an in-person hearing, ensuring more matters are heard quickly and Court users are kept safe. Further, the legislation continues to include measures to allow for electronic signing and remote witnessing of important legal documents including deeds, wills, powers of attorney, affidavits and statutory declarations.

Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes introduced the new legislation to the Victorian Parliament which hopes to achieve:

  • Modernisation of the judicial system in Victoria
  • Greater access for Victorians to the Courts, Tribunals, and legal processes
  • A more efficient judicial process
  • Prevent further disruption to judicial processes while keeping Court users safe

A number of key stakeholders including the Law Institute of Victoria, the Courts and the Office of the Public Advocate were consulted in the drafting of the Bill, in particular to ensure that appropriate safeguards against misuse have been included in the electronic witnessing reforms.

With benefits of now permanent processes and procedures in our Courts and Tribunals, the barriers of location for clients, legal practitioners and barristers will no longer be an issue in the process of dispute resolution before or during court proceedings.

If you have any queries in relation to a dispute you might be considering, experiencing or at risk of experiencing, please do not hesitate to contact our Litigation & Dispute Resolution Team. Please contact Rosy Dean (nee Rosy Roberts), Principal or Meghan Warren, Principal on respectively, or by contacting our office on + 61 3 9822 8588.

Insight written by Rosy Dean (nee Rosy Roberts)

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