Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions: face coverings

23 July 2020

Victoria's courts and VCAT continue to adapt with the rest of the community to the additional public health measures put in place to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Physical attendance at courts remains limited. For those who are required to attend physically the following information is provided.

The latest Directions from the Chief Health Officer will mean that from Thursday 23 July anyone in Victoria's court or tribunal buildings must wear a face covering unless an exemption applies. Those exemptions include where:

  • the nature of a person's work means that clear enunciation or visibility of the mouth is essential, such as:

    • judicial officers and those addressing the court as part of their work may therefore remove face coverings when in court for this purpose
    • court staff speaking in court and court interpreters may also remove face coverings when needed
    • those formally addressing the court as part of their work (e.g. barristers, solicitors, police prosecutors, interpreters, media seeking to be heard on a suppression order application), may choose to continue to wear a face covering so long as they can be clearly heard and understood and the court will endeavour to make reasonable adjustments to allow for this
    • where it is necessary to confirm identity for security purposes, authorised officers may request face coverings be removed temporarily for that purpose
  • required or authorised by law, such as:

    • for example, where it is considered necessary for the fair conduct of court proceedings the presiding judicial officer may direct a witness giving evidence, to remove a face covering
    • where it is a legal requirement that someone's face be able to be seen in court (e.g. during the jury empanelment process) they may be directed to remove a face covering
  • the person has a physical or mental health illness or condition or disability which makes wearing a face covering unsuitable:

    • Those in this category need not wear face coverings
  • the person is communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing and visibility of the mouth is essential for communication:

    • Those interpreting for the deaf may remove face coverings for this purpose.

It is expected that now that there is a general requirement to wear face coverings in public, most people attending court will have their own, and will be wearing a face covering when arriving at court. Some disposable face coverings will continue to be available to court and tribunal users attending for hearings, or the registry in person. These can be obtained at entrance points before security screening. Guidance on how to properly fit and dispose face coverings will be provided and displayed.

Further information on face coverings can be found on the DHHS website.

It remains the expectation that all court participants maintain physical distancing and, even if face coverings are removed pursuant to an exemption while in court, that they be worn when moving through the court environment.

This practice is a further measure towards providing a safe workplace for everyone working in, and coming into, Victoria's courts and tribunal. Please also follow the continuing health advice including:

  1. practice physical distancing – stay 1.5 metres away from anyone you don't live with
  2. practice excellent personal hygiene at all times – wash your hands and cough and sneeze into a tissue or your elbow
  3. if you feel unwell or have symptoms of COVID-19 however mild, do not attend court, and contact the Court to discuss alternative arrangements.

The health and safety of judicial officers, staff, and court users is of the highest priority. We will continue to closely follow public health advice, and thank all those coming into our courts and tribunal for their patience and understanding as we work together to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

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Page last updated: 30 July 2020