Local Court

COVID-19 (coronavirus)

The Local Court has made changes to its operations to reduce the risk of the spread of Coronavirus. 

The safety and wellbeing of the community and our staff is our number one priority, which is why we are taking steps to protect court users and limit face-to-face contact where possible. Visitors who are not part of legal proceedings and do not need to be at the courthouse must not attend.

The changes are outlined in the Chief Magistrate’s communications:

You can also access and file a range of Local Court forms and manage matters online through the NSW Online Registry. New forms are available for defendants or their legal representatives to enter a plea in Local Court matters online. Further information is available below at Entering a plea, or visit the NSW Online Registry.

Before attending a court in person please contact by telephone (1300 679 272) or email. 

Below is some general advice surrounding these new arrangements that may also assist your enquiry. 


Contacting/attending court

Should I attend in person to court?

Please telephone or email the court before attending in person. Arrangements are in place to minimise the need for people to come to court. Please review these FAQ for more information in relation to particular matters.

If you are advised by email/phone or your legal representative that you need to attend court, you must not attend if you:
- have travelled and returned from overseas in the past 14 days
- have had contact with a diagnosed, suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days
- you are feeling unwell

How do I contact the court?

You can call the Courts Service Centre on 1300 679 272 or email the court. The email address and telephone number for local courts are found here

How will the court contact me?

The court will contact you by email or telephone. Please ensure the court has your contact details and contact the court via telephone or email should these change.

How do I know if the court received my email?

You will receive an automatic email reply from the court to let you know your email has been received and actioned.

Where can I get legal advice?

You can get information or legal support from;

  • LawAccess www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au or call 1300 888 529 (Monday to Friday)
  • Legal Aid:  www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au or call Legal Aid on 1300 888 529. To protect public safety during the COVID-19 pandemic Legal Aid is not providing face-to-face advice or representation to defendants at courts and office doors are closed. You can still seek advice by phone or email to your local Legal Aid office.
  • Aboriginal Legal Service: keep up to date on the ALS website www.als.nswact.org.au or via the ALS Facebook page.
  • Law Society of NSW www.lawsociety.nsw.gov.au

I am a legal representative, am I required to appear?

None of the pandemic arrangements prevent a physical appearance before the court, except by a defendant in custody. Legal practitioners are permitted to minimise their physical court attendance in the following circumstances (Note: legal practitioners should refer to the directions in full in the Chief Magistrates memorandums):

  • In criminal list matters: by entering an appearance, making a request (including where seeking an adjournment) and/or indicating a plea to the court in writing/ by email (committal and summary matters).
  • In AVO list matters: by entering an appearance and seeking adjournments or any necessary orders in writing/ by email including where seeking orders by consent. Please note that the court will generally restrict any request for adjournment to once only. If there is no progress in the proceedings additional adjournments are unlikely to be granted. 
  • In Early Appropriate Guilty Plea matters that are to be finalised in Local Court: by obtaining full instructions from the defendant and communicating the advice to the court and the prosecution via email.

For sentencing proceedings:

  • Sentencing submissions by legal practitioners may be made in writing (see memorandum for further detail). 
  • Where the defendant is in custody bail refused: The legal representative may also appear by AVL, where the necessary AVL facilities are available or can reasonably be made available.

For hearing proceedings (persons in custody):

  • Unless adequate arrangements can be made by the legal practitioner to appear remotely, legal practitioners are to physically appear before the court. All Local Courts have been measured as to their individual capacity to ensure the maintenance of social distancing arrangements. Legal Practitioners should contact the court before which they are to appear for advice as to the maximum number of persons who may be present in the courtroom at any one time. (The physical appearance of the defendant and Corrective Services staff should be factored into this).

I am a victim in domestic violence proceedings, am I required to attend court?

No, unless there is a need for you to give evidence. It is recommended that you liaise with the prosecutor as they will advise you if (and when) you need to attend.

All existing orders (interim, provisional and final) remain enforceable. For any immediate concerns, please contact NSW Police.

Adjournments

What matters will be adjourned?

The following matters will be adjourned to a later date to minimise the need to attend a court during the pandemic period. 

Criminal matters which are not listed for sentencing:

  • matters where an unrepresented defendant seeks an adjournment, including where seeking to obtain legal advice/ representation. The Court will generally only allow for one adjournment for this purpose. 
  • if you seek to make an application for diversion pursuant to section 32 of the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990, the matter will be adjourned for 8 weeks to allow for preparation of the application, unless the application is otherwise able to proceed.

Defended hearings: 

  • See question ‘I have pleaded not guilty, will my matter proceed’ for more information about defended hearings.

Sentencing matters:

  • See ‘Sentencing Proceedings’ below. 

Other matters: 

  • Contested Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) hearings listed in the period 31 March to 1 May will be adjourned to the same date as any related criminal proceedings. Where there are no criminal proceedings linked to the AVO, the hearing will be adjourned for a period of no less than 3 months. 

For all other matters, if there is no attendance by a defendant, and no contact has been made with the court or written notice of pleading submitted, the matter will be dealt with in the defendant’s absence.

Wherever possible, defendants should provide an email address, residential address or mobile telephone number to facilitate communication with the court.

Bail

How will bail be determined for persons in police custody?

A person in custody will appear for a bail determination via Audio Visual Link to the following courts:

  • For the Sydney Greater Metropolitan Area: Parramatta, Penrith, Campbelltown, Liverpool or Central.
  • For Regional NSW: Wagga Wagga, Dubbo, Tamworth, Lismore, Port Macquarie, Newcastle and Wollongong.
  • NOTE: Pursuant to Chief Magistrate’s Memorandum No. 11 dated 22 May 2020, these centralised bail arrangements will cease following close of business 19 June 2020. From 22 June 2020 all bail applications, including Release applications and applications for Review of Bail are to be made to the Court before which the proceedings are pending

How can I apply for a review of a bail decision?

Applications for a review of bail must be:

  • Lodged via email or post using the application form; and
  • Requires a minimum of three days' notice before the court will consider the application (unless by consent or urgent application); and
  • Include the reasons why an application is being made and/or why changes to the bail conditions are sought.

Please email your application to the court where your matter is currently listed. For email addresses click here.

Entering a plea

How can I enter a plea?

There is no need to attend court. A plea can be entered by a defendant or their legal representative by completing a written notice of pleading form online at www.onlineregistry.lawlink.nsw.gov.au. You do not need to have an account to complete and submit the form online.

A defendant can also download  the written notice of pleading using the [Word doc] or [PDF doc]. Once complete email the form to the relevant court (see section 'how do I contact the court'). You will then be notified by email as to the next step in the process.  Legal representatives are to enter their appearance by email during these arrangements. 

You should seek legal advice about this form before filling it in.

Sentencing proceedings

I have pleaded guilty, how will my matter be dealt with?

The Court understands current impacts of the coronavirus and will take all aspects of your plea into consideration.

If you are NOT in custody:

In relation to sentencing, if your matter results in a fine, it may be dealt with in your absence. A penalty notice will be sent to you in these circumstances. 

If your matter requires your attendance, the court will adjourn the matter and advise in writing of your need to attend (either in person or via AVL where possible). 

If the magistrate considers it is likely that a sentence of full time imprisonment will be imposed, you (the defendant) may be required to attend court. 

There will be a staged return to hearing these sentencing matters in person from 18 May 2020 as follows:

  • From 18 May 2020, attendance by defendants for sentence is required at these locations: Campbelltown, Downing Centre, Parramatta, Penrith, Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Tamworth, Wagga Wagga and Wollongong.
  • From 1 June 2020, all other locations will resume sentencing (if quarantine arrangements within Correctional Centres are able to accommodate this).
  • Please check this advice again prior to your matter being listed and/or discuss with your legal representative.

If you are in custody:

These matters will proceed using AVL. Legal representatives may also appear via AVL (where possible).

You can seek legal assistance for your particular circumstances by contacting Law Access NSW. Visit the Law Access NSW website or call 1300 888 529.

Wherever possible, defendants should provide an email address, residential address or mobile telephone number to facilitate communication of the court’s response.

Hearings for pleas of not guilty

I have entered a plea of not guilty, will my matter proceed to hearing?

Existing hearing dates for hearings will be deferred to a later date as follows:  

  1. If you are NOT in custody:  Matters listed for hearing in the period 4 May and 31 July 2020 will be listed for mention on a date in September 2020. Matters listed for hearing in the period 23 March to 4 May 2020 will be listed for mention on a date in August 2020.
  2. If you are in custody: All matters listed for hearing in the period 30 March to 31 July 2020 were vacated however, will be listed for status mentions in June 2020 with possible hearing dates in July/August 2020. Status mentions for circuit courts will be held at hub courts with access to AVL. Legal practitioners must ensure that Notice of Readiness is provided to the court at the status mention. Please see Chief Magistrate’s Memorandum No.11 dated 22 May 2020 for more information. If a defendant in custody wishes to enter a plea of guilty at a status mention the court may proceed to finalisation.
  3. New hearing dates for anyone that pleads not guilty will be listed for mention in 3 months' time to a nominated date after 1 August 2020.

Attached to the Chief Magistrate’s Memorandum (No. 10) dated 7 May 2020 are two forms:

Parties that intend to proceed with defended proceedings must complete this document and email to the relevant court no less than 28 days prior to the next listing date. If a defendant intends to change their plea, this form does not need to be completed, however you need to advise the court by email not less than 28 days prior to the next listing date. 


Wherever possible, defendants should provide an email address, residential address or mobile telephone number to facilitate communication with the court.

Urgent applications

I am in urgent need of protection; will Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs) still be made?

Yes. Provisional AVOs will continue to be made, however the application for a final AVO may not be listed for mention before the court for a period of up to 3 months.

The court will continue to deal with urgent applications for variation or private AVOs.

Where a defendant pleads not guilty, the hearing will be postponed until a later date. 

All existing orders (interim, provisional and final) remain enforceable for the protection of the protected person(s).

I have an urgent application, how will this be dealt with?  

As at the Chief Magistrate’s Memorandum No. 11 dated 22 May 2020, there are no longer restrictions on filing any applications. It remains the preference that the court be contacted via email/phone prior to attending in person.

General queries

Can I file any documents online?

You can file some documents online at the NSW Online Registry  in civil matters, appealing a driver's licence or vehicle registration decision.

How can I pay my court fine?

To pay your fine, call the Courts Service Centre on 1300 670 272 or the telephone number of the court that is on your fine paperwork. You can pay by credit card over the telephone, by sending a cheque or money order in the mail to the court, by Centrelink payments or ask for more time to pay your fine. If you need to pay your fine by cash, please call the court before attending in person to pay.

How do I get something signed by the registrar of the court?

Court registries are only available by appointment only. Do not attend the court before contacting by telephone or email. If you need a document signed or witnessed by the registrar of the court you need to telephone or email to advise what documents you have and what you need. You will then be advised of appropriate arrangements and any alternative means of meeting this need where possible.

Traffic Offender Intervention Program

I need to undertake the traffic offender intervention program (TOIP)?

The Traffic Offender Intervention Program (TOIP) will not be delivered face-to-face during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are having difficulty participating in the course during COVID-19, you can contact the court and ask for the matter to be relisted or contact your local TOIP provider. If you need further information or have any questions, please email toip@justice.nsw.gov.au