The coronavirus pandemic continues to escalate and we would like to update you with information regarding how Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ) are responding. Please note that the situation is changing rapidly and the information that we provide at this current time may change by later in the week.
Legal Aid Queensland
LAQ is following the government advice in relation to self-isolation associated with travel and close contact with confirmed cases of COVID-19. Additionally, staff are to avoid all unnecessary travel for work purposes, avoid attending external training or events and should use telephone and videolink facilities rather than face to face attendances where possible. Staff that are unwell are staying home and as a result there may be a reduced capacity to answer queries and you may experience some delays. We apologise for any inconvenience that this causes.
Duty Lawyer Services
Correspondence has been sent this morning advising that as a precautionary measure, LAQ have suspended face to face duty lawyer services and will proceed to provide telephone and video-link alternatives where available. The decision was made principally in pursuance of our duties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to employees. We have been advised that LAQ’s duties under the Work Health and Safety Act extends to contractors such as preferred suppliers law firms and community legal centres.
Further meetings in the justice sector are occurring tomorrow that we anticipate will be relevant to duty lawyer services. We will provide you with a further update about duty lawyer services as soon as we can.
The full notice regarding duty lawyer services can be viewed here.
Family Dispute Resolution Conferences
Where appropriate, LAQ has historically arranged for parties to attend family dispute resolution conferences on-site at Legal Aid Queensland offices.
However, as a precautionary measure to reduce the risk of contracting coronavirus, LAQ will arrange conferences in a telephone format, where appropriate, until further notice. If you are the lawyer of a party with a matter that has been set down for a conference on-site at a LAQ office, and you would like to request the conference be held by telephone, please contact your conference organiser.
Mental Health Review Tribunal
The Mental Health Review Tribunal has requested that any correspondence in regards to attending hearings by remote conferencing or mode of attendance should be sent to MHRTLegalRep@mhrt.qld.gov.au . Please do not send these requests to HC@mhrt.qld.gov.au .
Representation services under a grant of aid
LAQ will continue to provide grants of aid for lawyers to provide other representation services with screening of clients.
The Queensland Law Society has provided guidance on issues that may arise that may arise as a consequence of COVID-19 and I encourage you to remain across the updates provided by the QLS. It is recommended that you take appropriate measures to protect your staff and people attending your offices, if your office is to close temporarily, you must inform your clients and advise them how to communicate with staff. The general obligation in relation to supervision of staff remains even when working remotely and the requirement to deliver services as promptly and diligently as reasonably possible in the circumstances remains.
As you would be aware, yesterday afternoon the Chief Justice and the Chief Judge of the District Court made a decision, as a precautionary measure, to suspend jury trials across the State until further notice due to the pandemic. Further updates can be found on the courts website as they occur.
Changes have also been announced to listing arrangements in the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court. Details can be accessed here.
This is an evolving situation that is likely to continue for some time. We will endeavour to keep you updated with what is happening at Legal Aid Queensland.