Bar table phones pilot
On 29 January 2019, the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria commenced a pilot of the use of bar table phones at Frankston (courtrooms one, two and five) and Latrobe Valley (courtrooms one, two and three)- phase one.
From 15 July 2019 the pilot will move into phase two and expand the use of bar table phones at Melbourne (courtrooms two, five and 19).
The pilot replicates as closely as possible the process of a lawyer approaching the dock for quick instructions from their client. This should, in turn, significantly reduce the need to stand matters down till a later time, as the lawyer can privately obtain instructions from their client during the hearing.
Bar table phones will move into a second three month pilot phase, allowing the project team to collect valuable data on the usage of the phones and fix any possible issues that may occur. The data will be analysed and used to determine the viability of rolling out bar table phones across a wider range of sites.
The aim of the pilot is to improve the experience and effectiveness of AVL appearances by allowing lawyers to have quick conversations with their client during the appearance.
When you are appearing for a client in an AVL hearing in a court room with a bar table phone, you may seek permission from the presiding magistrate to speak to your client. Bar table phone conversations should be used to quickly confirm instructions or particular details and should last no longer than 30-60 seconds
Before a bar table phone conversation, the audio and video over the link is muted and screens blanked out. You can then start the conversation with your client via the phone on the bar table. Once the conversation is complete the audio and video will restart. Conversations will be short and typically last for 30-60 seconds.
- A video-link is established between the Court and a prison venue, with the accused appearing via the link.
- During the proceeding, if the legal representative needs to speak to the accused to obtain further instructions, permission is sought from the magistrate to converse with the accused.
- Once permission is granted, the bench clerk presses a privacy mode button on the touchpad of the VC unit.
- Engagement of the privacy mode will mute all audio and video (including recording) in and out of the courtroom, and the legal practitioner would then lift the handset and be able to converse with the accused. The screen in court will display a message that the bar table phone is in use.
- The practitioner can now have a discussion with the accused and seek instructions.
- Once the conversation is finished and the handset is replaced or the Bench Clerk switches the VC unit from privacy mode to normal mode, audio and video in and out of the courtroom will be restored.
Guidance for usage
- Matters must be fully prepared in advance of the sitting day. The Bar Table phone will not be used to allow practitioners to take detailed instructions.
- It is intended that Bar Table phones are only to be used in circumstances where a brief clarification instruction is required during the course of the hearing.
- It is the intention that Bar Table Phone usage will typically last for 30- 60 seconds, whilst the Court remains sitting. If a longer conversation is required, the matter will be stood down and a new link time booked
- Although the audio and vision will be muted during a bar table phone conversation, the conversation will take place in open court. This means that other people in the Court will be able to hear you speaking to your client, although not hear your client’s response. The bar table phone is therefore not appropriate if you need to communicate confidentially with your client.