A new Practice Note issued by the Supreme Court is intended to reduce delays between committal hearings and trial. Under the new guidelines, the Magistrates’ Court will be required to email documentation to the Supreme Court immediately after committal, and “where feasible, the [post-committal directions hearing] may be heard in the afternoon on the same day and otherwise will be heard at 9:30 am the following sitting day.” The new guidelines also require the parties to be ready at the first directions hearing to advise the Supreme Court about issues such as whether the accused is negotiating on a plea, the availability of witnesses, and the estimated length of the trial.
As part of its new website, the Supreme Court of Victoria has launched launched a weblog. The first substantive post is from Justice Jack Forrest of the Trial Division, who predicts a number of changes in court procedure in coming years. Of note is the emphasis on digital documents: “an online filing system called ‘RedCrest’ … is being rolled out in the Commercial Court. … Hopefully, it will reduce the size not only of solicitors’ paper files, but also of briefs provided to counsel. Furthermore, it will make life much easier for court staff, counsel and solicitors alike by allowing them to search electronic databases quickly and effectively”. In addition, Justice Forrest remarks: “Any case involving five or more folders of court documents will be required to be run as an e-trial—at least for those cases before me.” Other predicted changes will focus on narrowing the issues in dispute as soon as possible: “The days of trials proceeding by attrition are gone. Practitioners should expect the courts to take a grim view of unnecessarily adversarial conduct.”