The Supreme Court of Tasmania has suspended jury trials until at least July 21 because it would be unfair to compel people to serve at a time of alarm about coronavirus.
The decision by the judges of the Supreme Court comes just days after a previous announcement that jury trials would recommence on March 23.
On Monday, a jury panel of more than 60 people attended the Supreme Court in Launceston.
The delay comes when there is already a significant Supreme Court backlog.
Chief Justice Alan Blow AO said the level of public alarm about coronavirus had become so great that it would not be fair to compel people to serve on juries at present.
"If jury trials went ahead, there would be a danger of jurors being distracted by concern about their health and safety," he said.
He said social distancing and other health and safety measures had been planned in the hope that jury trials could have resumed next week.
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He said all jurors who had received summonses requiring them to attend courts in Hobart, Launceston and Burnie this month were no longer required to attend.
He said many people required for jury trials would be unable or unwilling to attend court. The group would include including busy health professionals, lawyers and witnesses with compromised immune systems, other vulnerable individuals, and people required to self-isolate.
Judges would continue to deal with cases where a defendant pleads guilty, bail matters, appeals, pre-recording of evidence, and civil cases. Director of Public Prosecutions Daryl Coates SC revealed a spiralling in the criminal backlog in his 2019 annual report.
"The backlog has, in fact, increased from 382 in 2016-17 to 627 in 2018-19," he said.
There had been a 50 per cent increase in the number of committals in the past two years.
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