COVID-19 - ALERT LEVEL 2 - PROTOCOL FOR HEARINGS

The Tribunal is an essential service. The Tribunal acknowledges the importance of its work continuing to be done promptly. It will continue to do so within the restrictions currently in place and in line with the health and safety requirements.

Those persons who need to attend hearings from an area of higher alert restrictions can seek permission of the Tribunal to attend.1

All hearings. The Tribunal will continue to consider case by case, how charges can appropriately be heard, whether in person or by the use of an audio-visual link (AVL), ensuring the requirement for public hearings is still met.

Public access to hearings. Where a hearing is to proceed by AVL, the media and members of the public may contact the appointed Executive Officer by email and request a web link. Media and members of the public are welcome to attend in person hearings and details for both AVL and in-person hearings will be noted on the Tribunal’s home page under ‘Upcoming Hearings’. For in person hearings, please note that the Tribunal may need to restrict numbers of people in the public gallery if personal distancing restrictions require a limit in the hearing space.

Filing and service. All documents, witness statements, applications etc, should be emailed to the Tribunal for filing until further notice. Hard copies should be filed before distribution.

Affidavits. Affidavits should now be sworn or affirmed in the usual way during Alert Level 2, where meetings in person can now take place. However, if for reasons of health and safety this is not possible the Tribunal acknowledges that the New Zealand Law Society’s opinion is an appropriate way of administering oaths, declarations and attestation of affidavits in circumstances of mandatory self-isolation https://www.lawsociety.org.nz/search/?Query=swearing+of+affidavits&Type=pages&sort=

Executive office for the Tribunal. All Executive Officers continue to work in the office or at home. They are contactable by email and phone. Courier services can deliver as usual.

Health and safety for in-person hearings.

[1]These will be held in venues that enable physical distancing of at least one metre.

[2]Venue providers will also have a health and safety plan to ensure the health and safety of the public while on their premises.

[3]If unwell, do not attend the hearing. Witnesses should notify counsel as soon as possible if they become unwell.

[4]Before entering the hearing room, all attendees, including counsel, witnesses and the practitioner, must scan the QR COVID Code or complete the contact register available just inside the door of the hearing room.

[5]A schedule of witnesses must be provided to the Tribunal's Executive Officer two weeks prior to the hearing with the times each witness is due to arrive at the hearing. This is to ensure that a suitable space allowing for physical distancing can be arranged. Witnesses should not attend the hearing venue until just prior to their scheduled attendance and should bring their own religious text if they wish to take the oath.

[6]All persons working in the hearing room are required to maintain at least 1m physical distancing. The Tribunal's preference is for 2 metres separation between persons attending. Seats for members of the public will be spaced accordingly. Attendees are asked not to move the chairs and the public seating will be marked off. Attendance by members of the public will be limited to the number of allocated seats.

[7]Hand sanitiser will be available at both the entrance and exit to the hearing room. All attendees must use hand sanitiser just before entering and exiting the hearing room. Hand sanitiser will also be readily available within the hearing room.

[8]Cleaning products will be available on site to enable staff and counsel to keep their immediate areas clean.

[9]In keeping with the courts' protocols for operation at Alert Level 2 as announced by the Chief Justice on 30 August 2020, the wearing of face masks is encouraged in the Tribunal. Supplies of masks, gloves and hand sanitiser will be available for all participants. It will be the responsibility of the person wearing masks and gloves to dispose of them safely.

[10]Documents can be handed up. However, it is preferable that documents that parties wish to produce are scanned and shared by email at the appropriate time or provided with all documents directed to be filed prior to the hearing.

[11]Any concerns about health and safety practices in the hearing should be raised with the Executive Officer in the first instance.

[12]In the event of community transmission within the venue precinct, public health advice will be taken and further directions given.

Expectations of counsel

[1]Counsel are expected to assist the Tribunal by:

  • a)Briefing clients and witnesses on these protocols and public health measures including:
    • (i)Not to come to the hearing if unwell.
    • (ii)To advise counsel as early as possible if they are unable to attend the hearing.
    • (iii)Physical distancing expectations in the hearing room and within the venue precinct.
    • (iv)How exhibits will be handled in their case.
    • (v)What they may expect by way of personal protective equipment (PPE) and hygiene supplies in the hearing room.
    • (vi)Not attending the hearing venue until just prior to their scheduled attendance and bringing their own religious text if they wish to take the oath.
    • (vii)Limits on attendance by support persons and members of the public.
  • b)Reducing the need for attendance at the hearing of witnesses by reviewing each attendance in advance and:
    • (i)Considering and endeavouring to agree whether it is appropriate for any witness to participate remotely and apply to the Tribunal not less than 21 days in advance of the hearing date.
    • (ii)Limiting the number of witnesses via the use of agreed facts.
  • c)Providing a schedule of witnesses to the Tribunal's Executive Officer two weeks prior to the hearing with the times each witness is due to arrive at the hearing.
  • d)Raising any deficiencies with cleaning, the availability of cleaning supplies or physical distancing with the Executive Officer immediately.

The Tribunal acknowledges the steps taken by the venue providers to ensure the safety of those who are attending the venue during Alert Level 2, including:

[1]A designated site manager to attend to hygiene, physical distancing and safe work practices.

[2]Access will be denied to those who:

  • (i)show signs of illness such as coughing and sneezing;
  • (ii)report feeling unwell;
  • (iii)have had close contact with a suspected, probable or confirmed case; or
  • (iv)unwilling to fully complete the contact register.

[3]Limiting the number of support persons for clients and witnesses and members of the public who wish to attend. Support persons should be limited to one unless by prior agreement from the Tribunal.

[4]Maintaining a contact register.

[5]Maintaining a cleaning regime based on the Ministry of Health recommendations with a wide range of deeper cleaning measures in key areas throughout public and non-public areas and regular cleans - for example during lunch breaks - to ensure that areas where there is high traffic are cleaned and sanitised.

[6]Monitoring the provision of cleaning supplies such as hand sanitiser and cleaning products both inside and outside the hearing room.

[7]Reminding those attending the hearing of the need to take personal responsibility for their own health and wellbeing - including washing hands regularly, following hygiene practices and, if unwell, following Ministry of Health guidelines.

1 COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert Levels 3 and 2) Order (No 2) 2020 came into force at 11.59 pm on 22 August 2020. Section 12 (l)(h) provides that a court or tribunal may require or permit a person to attend a hearing in-¬person in a different Alert Level region. This encompasses lawyers and other court participants.

Reviewed 30 August 2020
Dated 20 May 2020