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More than 700 jury trials awaiting hearing as COVID-19 court backlog blows out

Article image for More than 700 jury trials awaiting hearing as COVID-19 court backlog blows out

The suspension of jury trials due to COVID-19 has led to a massive backlog, with more than 700 trials awaiting hearing.

County Court Chief Justice Peter Kidd has revealed the Melbourne backlog is “in excess of 700 trials” and there are several hundred trials in regional Victoria which are also pending.

Jury trials were suspended in March due to the risk of COVID-19 spreading. They are scheduled to resume on November 16.

But Justice Kidd says backlogs will persist due to a reduced coronavirus operating capacity.

“We’ve got a limited capacity even when we do recommence jury trials,” he told Neil Mitchell.

“Normally, for example, we’d run in the County Court some 20 odd trials at the same time, but because of the social distancing … we’re only able to run a maximum of 10.

“So there will be delays.”

Justice Kidd said, in some cases, people who wouldn’t ordinarily get bail have likely been granted bail due to the backlog.

“Bail is a nuanced decision,” he said.

“If the delay is increasing, which it is, then that can be a factor which … can lead to bail being granted.”

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