27 September 2023

COVID-scared Courts call back the jury

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The Supreme Court of Victoria has announced a limited number of Melbourne-based criminal jury trials are to resume from 20 July.

In a joint statement the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Anne Ferguson and Chief Justice of the County Court, Peter Kidd said that over the past few months the Courts had been working on plans for the safe resumption of jury trials.

“The Courts have consulted with health professionals, the legal profession and others involved with criminal trials,” the Chief Justices said.

“That planning has also been informed by work being done in other States and other countries,” they said.

They said jury trials would resume with a range of measures in place including avoiding the need for the physical gathering of large jury pools; physical distancing arrangements within courtrooms and jury rooms; procedural changes to minimise the need for the handling of objects; and frequent cleaning of high touch surfaces and other hygiene measures.

They said modifications had been introduced into jury procedures to support the measures.

“Jury summonses will start to be sent to potential jurors in coming weeks,” they said.

“They will be accompanied by advice about the measures that will be in place and procedures for those whose personal circumstances may mean they ask to defer their jury service or be excused.”

The Chief Justices said the Courts would continue to use technology for some hearings to keep the number of people physically coming to court low and to accommodate the physical needs of criminal jury trials.

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