Criminal Law Update
Criminal Courts at Covid-19 level 1
The Government announced to move to Alert Level 1 from mid-day of the Friday, 12 March 2021.
Criminal hearings continue with application of COVID-19 Alert Level 1 protocols which carry out its usual scheduled work in general. The protocols are not limited to the following:
1. Support people are permitted to attend Court.
2. Defendants who are in Police custody or Correction custody will appear at the Court in person unless directed by the Court to appeal by Audio Visual Link (AVL).
3. Generally, using the QR code is strongly encouraged.
4. It is encouraged to wear a mask, practise physical distancing and good hygienic practice of hand washing or sanitising is recommended.
Some personal practical effect of COVID-19 and potential steps ahead
Undoubtedly, COVID-19 caused so many disruptions in the life of defendants but also lawyers, both mentally, socially, and emotionally. It is the same disruption in the operation and administration of the court system. However, we, as lawyers or officers of the Court, we tried every means of communication to ensure we reached out the defendant to get instructions.
One of the struggles we faced was communication breakdown which causes delay and postponement of matters in the court system. However, we urge defendant’s engagement and active participation to at least contact their counsels at the earliest to avoid any warrant of arrest being issued.
The court was lenient to the extent of unprecedented times and judges were well understood of inconvenience. However, the pressure was on counsels to represent their clients and obtain instructions. Phone calls, texts, emails, social media - whatsapp, twitter, Instagram and facebook were all handy but self-inflicted dangerous time watch.
Therefore, as lawyers, using any modern available technology platforms to obtain instructions, always work it in a smart boundary, time watchers and act accordingly to minimise pressure and stressful on lawyers too.
It is a co-operative professional relationship that we expect, build, and engage to produce optimistic and positive outcome.