PL | COVID, Lawyers and Courts Update

COVID-19 social distancing has had a major impact on the operation of the law and courts in Tasmania. Here is some information about the status of a number of areas of law in Tasmania. Last updated 28 March 2020.

Legal Representation

Most law firms remain open and operating, either from their offices or from home. However, based on social distancing policies, many firms are not offering office appointments at this stage.

However, most firms are still offering telephone appointments, or webcam appointments by Skype, Zoom or Facebook Messenger.

Criminal Law and Courts

The Supreme Court has ceased all jury trials until July at the earliest. Most cases for defendants are being adjourned without court appearance but those who are charged should always check so that you do not breach your bail conditions. 

Preliminary Proceedings and witness testimony in these have been adjourned for the next two months. 

Bail applications, pleas of guilty and other matters not requiring a jury or witness testimony are still proceeding ahead, but on most occasions, will be by telephone or videolink.

The Magistrates Court is still operating but with changed procedures. This includes family violence, restraint order, Child Protection, and standard criminal law matters. Urgent applications can still be dealt with and you should not hesitate to contact the Courts or a lawyer if you are in difficulty.

People who have pled Not Guilty to traffic matters only and have a hearing (trial) listed are not required to attend Court - your matter is being adjourned automatically and you will be notified.

IMPORTANT: If you have a charge in the Magistrates Court, you must contact the Court to advise your phone and email information at least two days before your court date. Contact details are available here.

Appearances before the Magistrates Court are largely to be conducted by telephone or videolink, unless the Court orders otherwise. However, if your matter is listed for hearing (i.e. a trial) you should make contact with the Court or your lawyer to confirm the arrangements for you and any witnesses.

Family Law System

Court orders are court orders; parents are still legally required to comply with them even in the COVID-19 situation. While this can be extremely difficult (or even impossible, depending on your situation), the Chief Justice of the Family Court/Federal Circuit Court published this guide for parents during this situation.

The Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia are continuing restricted operations. Priority is being given to urgent parenting matters, where a child's safety is at risk. Non-urgent parenting  and property matters are now subject to adjournments until later in the year. The Court also has the power to refer these cases to mediation, or judicial mediation (i.e. the Judge themselves trying to settle the matter between the parties.)

  • Parenting Mediation (Family Dispute Resolution Conferences) - still proceeding but by telephone / webcam. 

  • Child Inclusive Conferences - not proceeding at this time. Where a Court has ordered one of these, it will now be a "Child Dispute Conference" between the parents and Family Consultant only.

  • Family Report interviews - In theory, these are still in progress as scheduled. However, interstate travellers and those unable to attend at the interviews in person should immediately contact the Court to advise their difficulty.

  • Property Mediations - still proceeding but by telephone / webcam.

  • Supervised contact - the Contact Centres operated by Relationships Australia in Devonport, Launceston and Hobart have ceased operation at this time.