Access to justice in Victoria limited by childcare restrictions

11th Aug 2020

Injured Victorians may not be able to have their cases heard because of rules that prevent lawyers and barristers in Victoria from accessing childcare despite being able to run trials remotely.

“It does not make sense that, although the courts will continue to operate remotely, barristers and lawyers cannot access any childcare,” said Mr Jeremy King, Victorian state president, Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA). 

“The ALA has written to the Attorney-General requesting an urgent review of access to childcare, nanny and babysitting services for legal practitioners as the current situation means that a large number of injured plaintiffs will be denied full and prompt access to justice.”

The County Court will continue to hear civil cases remotely but the majority of these matters will not be considered to be ‘priority’ which means the lawyers and barristers involved are not ‘permitted workers’ and therefore cannot access childcare, nanny or babysitting services. Even when a case is considered to be a ‘priority’, access to childcare may not allowed if someone else is at home, even if they are also working.

“The ALA acknowledges and applauds the fact that the Courts continue to operate. However, many legal practitioners will be attempting to run trials or hearings without childcare or support. The difficulties of running a trial in which a client’s legal rights are being determined with young children in the background are self-evident,” said Mr King.

“Unfortunately, it is still often female practitioners who are primarily responsible for childcare arrangements and so it is women lawyers and barristers who will be most seriously impacted. 

“Many of our members are informing us that they are simply unable to do this and will either have to adjourn cases, or in the case of barristers, return the brief to their instructor.

“The end result will be that many injured plaintiffs, despite the best efforts of the courts to hear cases remotely, will have their matters adjourned and their cases delayed.”

Tags: Victoria COVID-19