Summary crime adjournment fees

Summary crime adjournment fees

Under our guidelines we do not usually pay for an adjournment sought on behalf of an accused person unless there are ‘exceptional circumstances or it is reasonable in all the circumstances’. Some practitioners are adopting an overly cautious approach to claiming adjournment fees because of concerns about the outcome of Compliance checks.

Our approach to the payment of adjournment fees is to ensure:

  • negotiations between the prosecution and the defence occur prior to the first mention date, through the summary case conferencing model
  • practitioners are not making unnecessary court appearances
  • practitioners are not seeking unnecessary adjournments which will result in prolonging the resolution of matters
  • the prosecution is held accountable for any delays in the efficient and timely resolution of matters. This would include practitioners actively applying for costs against Victoria Police, where appropriate.

When we would pay for an adjournment

Adjournment due to prosecution delays

We expect the prosecution to be held accountable for delays when an adjournment is required and:

  • you have made reasonable attempts to resolve the matter well in advance of the date that the matter is listed, but the prosecution has not been prepared to engage in meaningful negotiations, or
  • you have sought disclosure of crucial evidence from the prosecution well in advance of the date that the matter is listed, but adequate disclosure has not occurred.

In these circumstances, you should:

  • place the onus on the prosecution to make the application for the adjournment and request that the court record reflects that the application was made by the prosecution.
  • apply to the court for a costs order against the prosecution for that hearing in favour of Victoria Legal Aid.

In these circumstances we would pay the adjournment fee contained in Table A of Fee Schedule 1 of the VLA Handbook for Lawyers. This includes where the court has refused an application for costs against the prosecution. In this situation, your file must contain a file note of the reasons why the costs order was refused. You do not need to seek an extension of assistance in order to claim the adjournment fee.

Adjournments in unforeseen circumstances arising from court processes

Where an adjournment for a mention hearing is required due to unforeseen circumstances arising from the court listing or another court process, you can make an application for an Appeal Costs Fund certificate for the costs thrown away. In such circumstances we would pay the adjournment fee contained in Table A of Fee Schedule 1 of the VLA Handbook for Lawyers.

If the matter was booked in for a plea/contest mention/contested hearing or other appearance, the application for an Appeal Costs Fund certificate should be made in the amount contained in Table BBB of Fee Schedule 1A.

Child clients and adjournments

If you have a grant of assistance but cannot attend court for an adjournment because there is no fee attached for the appearance, the duty lawyer service can, in some circumstances, assist child clients to obtain an adjournment. The duty lawyer service will always prioritise children and can represent them in specific applications where a fee is not payable.

If you wish to brief a duty lawyer to appear for your child client you must provide a letter to the court clearly setting out:

  • the reasons for the adjournment
  • the proposed adjournment date and location
  • the history of any previous adjournments
  • the status of the child client’s attendance at court, (for example if a child is on summons and will not appear, or if the child is on bail but asking to be excused from answering bail for a given reason).

You should also contact and deliver a copy of this letter to the relevant Victoria Legal Aid office at least two days prior to the court appearance. Please include the child’s phone number and parent or guardian’s phone number in your correspondence with the Victoria Legal Aid office so the duty lawyer has the contact details of the young person in case they do not attend court and need to be contacted.

Adjournments we will not usually pay for

We will not pay for the attendance if you are seeking an adjournment because you are not ready to proceed on the day that the matter is listed (not due to the fault of the prosecution). In these circumstances you can seek an administrative adjournment from the court. If the client is required to attend court because they are on bail or because there have been previous adjournments, the client should attend in person to seek the adjournment

Mentions hearings to monitor progress of a matter

We will not pay a fee where the court makes an order requiring a practitioner to attend for a mention hearing to monitor progress of the matter. We understand that some courts are making these orders to formalise summary case conferencing as a court event but it is our view that summary case conferencing is part of a practitioner’s preparation of a matter. The court does not have the power to order Victoria Legal Aid to fund such an attendances and you can inform the court that Victoria Legal Aid will not pay for such an attendance.

In the Children’s Court, there is not a formalised summary case conference model. We have been working closely with Victoria Police Prosecution’s units across the state, where they have agreed to read and respond to summary case conference emails for Children’s Court matters, where practicable. Please advise us of any court or other issues relating to this and we can discuss this directly with Victoria Police.

How to claim for an adjournment fee

To claim an adjournment fee, your file should contain sufficient detail about the circumstances of the adjournment to ensure it meets our policy.

Where a costs order is made, it is important to ensure that the invoice in ATLAS reflects that costs have been indemnified and that you upload the costs order into ATLAS.

Where an Appeal Costs Fund certificate has been granted, you must ensure that the invoice in ATLAS reflects that costs have been indemnified through an Appeal Costs Fund and upload the certificate into ATLAS. You should also submit the Appeal Costs Fund certificate to the Appeal Costs Board.

Contact

Any questions in relation to adjournments should be directed to:

Assignments Criminal Law
Email: assignmentscrime@vla.vic.gov.au
Phone: (03) 9606 5351