NTCAT & MHRT: Covid-19 measures
Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT)
- All existing listings for hearings and compulsory conferences are being maintained; however, all parties are being contacted in advance and advised that the tribunal strongly encourages remote participation. The usual requirements for leave to attend by phone or video are suspended. In the event a party attends in person, we are presently confident that adequate physical separation can be maintained – including if need be, by the use of more than one hearing room.
- In the short term, the likely consequence of the above will be that most matters are dealt with by phone; however, we are looking at ways of facilitating participation by Skype – type means. Fortuitously we have recently introduced a practice of creating pdf hearing books, which should help keep everyone on the same page even if they can only attend a hearing by phone.
- Presently we do not propose deferring future listings of routine matters – though it is reasonable to assume that this might change if we find that remotely attended hearings are proving unmanageable. More complicated matters, for example those involving multiple parties or substantial evidentiary material, are likely to require special arrangements.
- It should also be understood that, despite the temporary move to remote hearings, NTCAT will ensure that the interests of justice remain paramount. There may, in other words, be cases where the only fair approach is for the matter to be adjourned until a more conventional hearing is possible.
- A number of measures have also been adopted for the protection of NTCAT staff. Most of these are ‘in-house’ (signage, sanitisers etc); however, one measure that will potentially affect parties and their representatives is that hard copy documents will no longer be accepted by the NTCAT Registry or at hearings. In other words, electronic delivery of documents (already strongly preferred by NTCAT) will temporarily become a firm rule.
- All this assumes that we remain able to maintain a semblance of normal operations at our Darwin and Alice Springs Registries. Even if we lost that ability, I expect that there would remain some capacity for us to maintain a bare bones operation with staff and members working from home and that we would remain able to deal with truly urgent matters (for example in our residential tenancies and guardianship jurisdictions).
Mental Health Review Tribunal (MHRT)
- Effective immediately, all MHRT members will be sitting remotely for the tribunal’s Monday (Tamarind Centre), Wednesday (Cowdy Ward) and Friday (Alice Springs Hospital) hearings. The tribunal’s legal and community members will sit at NTCAT hearing rooms and participate by video (the medical members are all interstate-based in any event). Patients’ lawyers will also have the option of appearing at NTCAT. Once again, it is our understanding that our facilities will allow adequate separation.
I finally note that things are developing very quickly and that there is every chance the measures described above will soon require revision.
Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal & Northern Territory Mental Health Review Tribunal