On 25 March 2020, the NSW Government introduced an emergency Bill to Parliament consisting of amendments to existing laws in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This bill comprises the following amendments:

Court Procedures

The bill amends the Criminal Procedure Act 1986, enabling a judge to order that a relevant witness can pre-record their evidence before the trial. The bill expands scope for judge-only trials, significantly reducing the number of individuals to physically attend court proceedings.
Further amendments to the Evidence (Audio and Audio Visual Links) Act 1998 aim to facilitate the increased use of audio visual links in court proceedings such as bail appearances. The Court will have the power to direct the use of this technology for witness appearances and legal representatives including the prosecutor.
Changes to the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 extend the period of time of provisional Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders from 28 days to 6 months. The existing requirement to list the provisional order on the next date on which the matter can be listed on a domestic violence list at the appropriate court will not be changed.

Correctional Facilities

Amendments to the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 give power to the Commissioner of Corrective Services to release certain inmates early on parole. This will occur particularly with vulnerable inmates who are nearing the end of their sentence. The standard conditions of parole apply to these individuals such as good behaviour, not committing any offence and other conditions which the commissioner deems appropriate including home detention and electronic monitoring. Inmates serving a life sentence, a sentence for murder, a serious sex offence or a terrorism offence are excluded from these provisions.

Signing and Witnessing Documents

The bill amends the Electronic Transactions Act 2000 to enable regulation that will allow for alternative mechanisms for signing and witnessing documents.

Retail Stores

The Retail Trading Act 2008 amendments will allow supermarkets to open during the April public holidays for this year only ensuring that adequate food and other essential items are available during these times.

Police Powers

Amendments will be made to allow a police officer to arrest a person who breaches public order and to return them to their home or place of detention. They will be authorised to act as authorised officers under the Public Health Act 2010 for certain purposes.

Community Services

Changes to the Child Protection (Working with Children) Act will enable the Children’s Guardian to extend clearances where appropriate to help prevent any disruption to services. This will assist teachers and medical staff who require a Working with Children Check.

Other Amendments

The bill aims to relieve pressure on the health system and general practitioners. The bill amends the Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017 and the Workers Compensation Act 1987 to allow an allied health professional to provide certification of ability to work. It further amends the Public Health Act 2010 with the requirement to make an application for confirmation within three working days in respect of a public health order made in relation to a person who has been exposed to COVID-19.

If you consider any of the above issues may impact upon you or you require further advice please get in contact with our office by email to info@wmdlaw.com.au or call us on 9525 8688.