Monday, July 15, 2024

Remote access boost to improve court participation rates

The Government has announced targeted legislative changes designed to boost remote participation in court proceedings, including the ability for victims to observe a criminal trial and sentencing remotely. 

“We think there is untapped potential for audio visual (AV) technology, both in ensuring timely access to justice and in easing the stress of attending court in person,” says Courts Minister, Nicole McKee.

The Courts (Remote Participation) Amendment Bill makes targeted amendments to the Courts (Remote Participation) Act 2010 and the Criminal Procedure Act 2011.

The proposed changes will:

  • introduce a new section to the Act which allows victims and support people to remotely observe a criminal trial and sentencing if they wish to, if suitable technology is available and if a judicial officer or court registrar deems it appropriate. It provides a safe option for victims to attend court and helps avoid the potential for retraumatisation and intimidation that can sometimes happen when coming to court in person.
  • allow the use of audio links such as teleconferences for criminal proceedings where defendants do not attend, and for appropriate civil proceedings (including the Family Court).  
  • makes permanent a currently temporary amendment under COVID-19 legislation, clarifying that the principle of open justice does not affect the courts’ ability to conduct hearings by AV technology where appropriate.

“It’s 2024, people now work from remote locations and hold entire conferences through audio and video technology,” said Ms McKee.

“We’re going to use AV technology, where appropriate, to ease pressure on courts and increase access to justice. It means more options for attending court for victims, and other participants such as lawyers. 

“The proposed measures will also help reduce the risk of victims being intimidated or revictimised, which can happen when attending court in person.

“The Bill will be implemented while a review of Courts (Remote Participation) Act is underway. This review will identify a modern, fit-for-purpose regime for remote participation in court proceedings,” the Minister said.

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