DATES for dozens of local court cases in Tamworth and Armidale have been rescheduled as the justice system grapples with the health risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
In an unprecedented move, court registrars and magistrates have moved all non-custodial hearings, for people on bail and in the community, to a new date in May.
This week, callovers were held in Tamworth and Armidale courts to shift all hearings set down for six weeks between March and the first week of May, as the justice system moves to navigate the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The long lists of cases have been re-listed and moved to later dates, with several accused defendants and victims told to come to court at a later date.
Defendants were notified that their court dates "will not proceed until a later date" and it was purely "because of the Covid-19 health issue"
Accused persons have been told they are excused, if represented, until a hearing date is known, or court operations resume as normal.
In Armidale, the callover was conducted on Friday to adjourn all non-custody hearings until the first week of May.
Glen Innes, Tenterfield and Walcha circuit courts are being managed through Armidale court, and will be held through a telephone link-up on the day the cases are listed.
Lawyers and defendants are also restricted in how many people can appear in court at the one time, which is in addition to the federal government's social distancing and indoor gathering restrictions.
In a statement from the Chief Magistrate's Office, Chief Magistrate Judge Graeme Henson said that "visitors who are not involved in proceedings should stay away from court complexes".
He has also ordered that all accused persons in custody should only appear in court by video link from prison or police stations, with magistrates directed not to issue prisoner transfer orders to move anyone to court.
List matters that aren't scheduled for a hearing or for sentence can be dealt with electronically, and defendants can plead guilty in writing.
"They will not be required to attend court for the sentence unless the presiding magistrate considers the offence is serious and therefore attendance is required," the statement said.
"If this is the case, the court will adjourn the matter and advise the defendant in writing."
In domestic violence proceedings, protected persons won't need to attend court until a hearing is fixed.
The local court has set aside the month of October this year to "catch up on backlogs".
"At this stage the court will not list any defended hearings during this month," the statement said.
"In addition, the State Debt Recovery Office has agreed not to list any traffic matters in the Local Court between 1 July and 1 October 2020."