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Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: Suspend face to face duty lawyer services

Dear Practitioners

The coronavirus pandemic continues to escalate and we would like to update you with some information about court operations and duty lawyer services. 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.

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.

Late yesterday I advised Legal Aid Queensland staff by email that as a precautionary measure, and with much reluctance, that LAQ would suspend face to face duty lawyer services (crime, domestic and family violence, family law and child protection). Instead LAQ will proceed to provide telephone and video-link alternatives where available. The suspension is effective immediately (today), and is supported by the Legal Aid board's chairperson.

The Chief Magistrate has been advised of the decision to suspend these face-to-face services.

The decision was made principally in pursuance of our duties under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to ensure our LAQ staff's health and safety by providing a safe workplace and a safe system of work - and follows advice of an incident that occurred yesterday of an LAQ lawyer being exposed without notice to persons potentially carrying the virus in the course of providing face-to-face duty lawyer services.

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. It is a decision for your practice and organisation as to whether you continue to fulfil this service today and the extent to which it is performed however, we urge you consider the health and safety of your staff and ensure the appropriate precautions are taken. You will be fully reimbursed for any services provided. Please advise if you do not intent to provide a scheduled service today.

We will provide you with more information later today about duty lawyer services from tomorrow onwards.

Please consult with local magistrate courts and watch houses to assess if they are able to accommodate telephone and/or video link advice and appearances before the court.

Legal Aid Queensland will continue to provide grants of aid for lawyers to provide other representation services with screening of clients.

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.

Yours sincerely,
Anthony Reilly
Chief Executive Officer


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