I write to advise that the FCoA and the FCC are extending the face-to-face protocols currently in place to allow urgent trials and urgent hearings of applications that cannot be conducted by Microsoft Teams to be heard in face-to-face hearings commencing 15 June 2020.
Whilst the Courts have been able to conduct over 80% of their work via electronic hearings since March 2020, it is recognised that there are some proceedings that require a hearing in person. Given the health concerns and social distancing requirements, a full utilisation of courtrooms may take some months as restrictions are eased. However, the Courts will open 4 courtrooms in each major registry starting on Monday. This will be increased as soon as we are able to.
Strict social distancing and capacity requirements will have to be met not only in respect to space within courtrooms but also in respect to people queuing at security and waiting to use an elevator. An updated In Court Face-to-Face Protocol is attached and will be on each Court’s website.
The salient features of the protocol are:
- Hearing times will be staggered;
- There will be strict social distancing requirements implemented in all common areas and courtrooms;
- In courtrooms, no written appearances are to be provided to Associates. Appearances are to be orally announced at the start of the hearing;
- No hardcopy documents are to be passed up during the hearing; an electronic court book is to be used where possible;
- No more than 8 people plus court staff and a judicial officer are allow in the courtroom at any one time without leave of the judge;
- Witnesses who are not parties will be required to leave the courtroom after giving evidence;
- All present are encouraged to download and activate the COVID-19 app. Those who choose not to will be requested (not required) to provide their names and contact details for contact tracing requirements only if the Courts are required to provide that information to the health authorities if an outbreak occurs;
- Practitioners and parties will not be able to go to other floors in the Court Registry save for the entrance and the floor their courtroom is located on, and should exit the Registry building promptly after the conclusion of their hearing.
This protocol will be updated from time to time and be sent to you prior to its implementation.
Thank you for your cooperation. Please note that the Courts are doing everything they can to continue the vital work they do for the Australian people and to assist the profession wherever possible.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact my chambers via email email@example.com.
The Honourable Justice Alstergren
Family Court of Australia
Federal Circuit Court of Australia