Magistrates’ Court of Victoria Practice Direction 17 of 2020 and our fees

Magistrates’ Court of Victoria Practice Direction 17 of 2020 and our fees

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

The Magistrates’ Court of Victoria has recently issued Practice Direction 17 of 2020. It is aimed at progressing cases in the backlog and increasing the use of online hearings where appropriate.

Practice Direction 17 requires practitioners to take the following steps.

Practitioners should enter their appearance on Electronic Filing Appearance System (EFAS) for all summary stream criminal matters where they are acting.

It is particularly important that this includes all matters which are currently in the ‘backlog’ of adjourned matters listed from October onwards. If you have not already done this you should do so immediately because the Practice Direction required that these appearances were entered by 28 August 2020.

Use EFAS to communicate with the Court about your cases, not email or fax.

When advised by the Court, appear in a 'block special mention' for your matters and advise whether each matter should be listed for plea of guilty or for contest mention.

Summary case conferencing must take place before the special mention. The Practice Direction specifies that practitioners will be given three weeks’ notice of a special mention date and must contact Prosecutions for the purpose of case conferencing at least two weeks before the special mention date. But it is a good idea to start case conferencing your matters now ahead of the special mention date.

Practitioners should note that Accused people do not need to attend the special mention.

Special mention fees

Victoria Legal Aid will pay a special mention fee of $165 for each matter to practitioners who appear in a 'block special mention'. In order to claim the fee practitioners must take the following steps.

Contact prosecutions to case conference the matter in compliance with the Practice Direction. If you have attempted to resolve the matter at case conference but have not received a response from Prosecutions, you must ensure your file evidences your attempts to resolve the matter.

There are various options for efficiently conducting a case conference in place across the state, but if you are unsure about how to initiate the case conference the best option is to send an email the relevant case conferencing address, setting out the issues in dispute and which charges you are seeking to have withdrawn. The email should be saved on your file. Unresolved matters should be listed for a contest mention following the special mention.

Speak to your client about their ability to appear in a plea or contest mention via WebEx. Your client does not need to attend the special mention, but any issues which your client might encounter in appearing via WebEx for the next Court date should be raised at the special mention. For more information, please read our WebEx guide.

Your conversation with your client should cover:

  • Whether your client has access to an internet connected computer, smart phone or device.
  • Whether your client has access to a quiet place where they will not be interrupted for the hearing.
  • Whether your client has a family member, friend or support worker who can assist them to access the WebEx hearing if required.
  • Any communication barriers your client might experience, such as need for an interpreter, cognitive disability or other needs. These should be raised during the special mention.
  • Whether there are any safety issues for your client, particularly in relation to family violence.

Appear at the special mention prepared to indicate to the Court:

  • Whether the matter should be listed for plea of guilty or for contest mention.
  • A realistic estimate of the time required for the matter.
  • Whether your client can access an online hearing and any supports they may require (such as an interpreter).
  • Whether imprisonment is a likely outcome (Practitioners should note that the Magistrate hearing the special mention is likely to also hear the plea or contest mention. So, while the issue of imprisonment may need to be raised at special mention for the purposes of determining how a matter is listed, it should be discussed carefully).

Practitioners should note that preparation for the special mention requires practitioners to prepare the matter in the usual way and therefore this work is covered by the lump sum preparation fee.

The special mention fee is $165 and covers the practitioner’s time appearing in the special mention. If the requirements are met, practitioners can claim a special mention fee on each matter they appear in, including where a number of their matters are listed in the same 'block'.

Practitioners can also brief a barrister to appear at the special mention, in which case the brief fee is the special mention fee. If these matters are briefed, practitioners must ensure the above preparation has been done and the barrister has been provided with all relevant information as a result.

More information

Visit our COVID-19 information for lawyers hub for the latest COVID-19 updates and resources for practitioners.

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