On Friday, 27 March 2020, we advised of the COVID-19 changes to hearings in the Queensland Courts, Commissions & Tribunals. As the COVID-19 situation progresses, the Courts have taken further steps to protect members of the profession, and the public. These changes need to be considered as they can potentially impact the outcome for cases.
Supreme and District Court of Queensland
From 1 April 2020, all cases in the trial division requiring substantive oral hearing are required to take place by telephone and/or video link, unless there are good reasons why a proceeding cannot take place by the use of this technology. Whilst parties may make submissions in relation to the issue, the presiding judge will determine whether the hearing may be conducted by telephone or video link, and will notify the parties.
The hearing of any Queensland regional trials by circuit judges will now be conducted entirely remotely by judges sitting in Brisbane.
Magistrates Court of Queensland
On and from 30 March 2020 there will be no physical appearances in any matter except with the Court's leave. All matters will be conducted by telephone or video conference.
Civil applications will now be dealt with on the papers. All other civil matters currently before the Court will be adjourned on the papers without appearance to a date to be fixed by the Magistrate. The matters will no longer be automatically adjourned for a period of 3 months. The Court will continue to accept applications for the matter to be listed for hearing where delay would cause substantial prejudice to a party.
The Queensland Courts are committed to progressing all civil matters. Our update dated 27 March 2020 outlined the potential concerns with respect to the assessment of credit of lay witnesses if their evidence was not being given in person. The limited availability of video technology to the Courts may lead to lay witness giving evidence by telephone becoming the norm. The move to requiring witnesses to have access to and be technologically capable of installing court required video apps in order to give evidence is another consideration to be front of mind. Now is the time to consider strategy for upcoming trials and be proactive about approaching the Court if your Action is likely to be adversely affected by witnesses not being able to give evidence in person, particularly where credit of that witness is in issue.