Defendants will have to front up to magistrates courts again from June 1 as the justice system prepares for ‘the big wave’ of cases in July.
Defendants will have to front up to magistrates courts again from June 1 as the justice system prepares for ‘the big wave’ of cases in July.

Courts warn things about to ‘get stupid’

After months of battling with dodgy mobile phone and video links, from June 1 magistrates will once again deal with defendants in person.

Chief Magistrate Terry Gardiner has emailed magistrates to inform them that, within the next fortnight, people issued with a notice to appear and who do not have a lawyer can turn up to courts.

Those represented by lawyers can still appear by phone link.

However social distancing measures would continue, duty lawyers might not be present on site at some courts with limited space to permit social distancing, and written pleas would still be encouraged.

Chief Magistrate Terry Gardiner has emailed magistrates to inform them defendants can turn up to courts again from June 1.
Chief Magistrate Terry Gardiner has emailed magistrates to inform them defendants can turn up to courts again from June 1.

The news came as a southside magistrate said courts would be preparing for late June when "the wave breaks'' as hundreds of adjourned matters return to the courts.

"The end of June is when the wave breaks and particularly the first week of July - that's when things get stupid,'' Magistrate Simon Young said this morning.

"But we have four weeks to figure that out.''

A spokesman for the Office of the Chief Magistrate confirmed current magistrates court arrangements were being reviewed and "will likely transition under a new practice direction within the next fortnight''.

"The expectation is that some defendants will be able to appear in court in person, while others represented by lawyers will be able to appear by telephone,'' he said.

"Courts will continue to abide by stringent social distancing rules as recommended by health experts.

"The intention is that there will be a localised response for the return of duty lawyers, where the appearance of the legal aid representatives will rest with each local court's ability to provide a safe environment for all staff under the health guidelines.

"The promotion of electronic adjournments and consent order listings is expected to continue.''

Hundreds, if not thousands, of cases have been adjourned to June, July or August since the lockdown began.

Fortunately, there has been a significant drop in most of the minor offences commonly dealt with by magistrates courts.

Some defendants have still been appearing in person, however in most magistrates courts usually only the magistrate, police prosecutor and clerk of the court have been present.

Magistrates have been forced to phone defendants, with numerous cases of missed calls, poor connections or wrong numbers.

Video links for defendants held in custody have also been problematic, as this has sometimes involved moving an inmate to a video room.

Under strict rules designed to stop the spread of coronavirus among prisoners - a massive problem in the United States - those inmates sometimes then have had to be put into two weeks' isolation.

To date, no Queensland prisoner has returned a confirmed coronavirus diagnosis.

Originally published as Courts warn things about to 'get stupid'


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