Court observations of hearings by members of the public, including school and university students, have been put on hold due to the COVID- 19 pandemic.
For young people studying legal studies in their final years of high school and/or law students at university this presents a challenge. How to gain the required insight into the operation of courts without being able to attend in person?
This post seeks to collate all of the current available resources and options to allow Australian students and educators to find ways to overcome this barrier.
The resources are divided by jurisdiction and includes information as publically available in late August 2020.
Supreme Court of Victoria
The Supreme Court of Victoria live streams some proceedings, you can find them in the news section of their website. Students and their teachers can also access recorded webcasts of judgments and sentencing proceedings for court observations.
You can also watch a criminal trial scenario below. You can access further teaching resources on the court’s website.
Virtual Law Day Out
Australia’s Magna Carta Institute – Rule of Law Education has created a fantastic set of videos to support students and teachers who are unable to visit the courts in NSW due to the current restrictions.
These videos would also be helpful for teachers from other Australian and common law jurisdictions in teaching their students about the important work of judges and court officers through court observations.
Federal Court of Australia
The Federal Court has modified it’s court attendance practices,
All hearings before the Court (other than in truly exceptional circumstances) are currently proceeding using remote access technology. Currently, the Court is using Microsoft Teams and telephone conferencing in order to hear matters. It is anticipated that the number of available court rooms will shortly be adequate to enable wide spread access to remote technology for hearing purposes.
To protect the fundamental rule of law principle of open justice, many of the justices of the Federal Court are facilitating public access to remote hearings. To find a remote hearing to observe in your state you will need to follow the below steps.
- Access the daily court lists for the Federal Court in your state
- Read the list of hearings for the day and look for text that looks like the below.
- This and the following proceedings will be conducted by remote access technology and are open to members of the public. If a member of the public wishes to observe the listing remotely please contact the Associate to Allsop CJ by email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 9.30am AEST on 24 August 2020. Alternatively, to dial in and hear these proceedings, call + 61 2 9161 1229 and enter the Conference ID 146 064 747#. Members of the public are not to provide their name when connecting, and are to remain muted.
- Email the justice’s associate and request access to the link. Use the sample email text available for download on the right.
New South Wales Supreme Court
The NSW Supreme Court has a YouTube live page that allows students and teachers to watch live proceedings from the court. To find out about which proceedings will be broadcast live we suggest following the courts Twitter feed.
Watch the recent ceremony for newly admitted lawyers above, in which the Chief Justice discussed becoming a ‘vlogger’.
Local Court Resources
Court observations in Local Courts can greatly assist students in understanding the experience of most Australians when they interact with the legal system. The Local Court of NSW has some helpful information sheets to assist teachers and students. They have also been at the forefront of innovation in courts but using therapy dogs to support witnesses and court staff in their difficult work.