P&E Court guidance on appearances other than in person at applications or reviews

The Planning and Environment Court has released additional guidance in relation to appearances other than in person at the hearing of an application or review.

The guidance has been published following a request from the Queensland Law Society Planning and Environmental Law Committee for clarification of the circumstances in which the court might contemplate permission to appear other than in person.

Members have highlighted the ongoing benefits of some of the procedural changes introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the availability of a ‘virtual courtroom’ in appropriate cases.

QLS welcomes the additional guidance from the P&E Court to help members deciding whether to seek permission to appear other than in person at the hearing of an application or review, under paragraph 19 of Practice Direction 2 of 2020.

The advice for practitioners has been published on the P&E Court website.

Paragraph 19 of Practice Direction 2 of 2020 provides for the ordinary requirement that an appearance in court is required, on behalf of each party, on a review or on the return date for an application for orders or directions, unless one of the exceptions applies. One of these is that the judge who is to hear the application or conduct the review permits appearance otherwise than in person.

The practice direction is subject to temporary arrangements due to COVID-19. It does not state criteria for the granting of permission.

The additional guidance states that where the party, or their representative as the case may be:

  • has tested positive for COVID-19, or
  • is awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test, or
  • has some other basis for concern that they might have COVID-19, AND
  • does not have available alternative representation

they should contact the judge’s associate as soon as possible in order to arrange for an appearance other than in person.

The additional guidance confirms that whilst the granting of permission to appear otherwise than in person is always a matter for the presiding judge, examples of circumstances where permission might be granted include where:

  • the party is a self-represented litigant, or
  • the location of the usual practice of the legal practitioner representing a party is remote from the court hearing the matter, AND
  • the party or legal practitioner, as the case may be, advises, when requesting permission to appear other than in person, that the matter is likely to be uncontested or that they do not intend to advance argument in relation to any contest amongst other parties.

It should be noted that paragraph 19 of Practice Direction 2 of 2020 also includes, as other exceptions to the usual rule as to appearance, circumstances where a matter has been adjourned on the papers or become the subject of a consent order made on the papers.

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