‘Taking the p*ss’: Crooks using COVID to dodge court
ACCUSED crooks are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to dodge turning up to Gold Coast courts, lawyers say.
Due to the pandemic, the Southport Magistrates Court is adjourning any matters where a defendant has undergone a COVID-19 test and needs to self-isolate.
Matters are now regularly being adjourned to comply with the pandemic's needs.
However, solicitors and prosecutors are questioning how many of those supposed to be at court are actually ill or are just trying to manipulate the justice system.
"It's a safe bet to say a few are starting to take the piss," one solicitor told the Bulletin.
The solicitors did not want to be named, but were at pains to say it would not be their clients dodging their court dates.
Solicitors were also questioning whether results had come back for some people waiting for results.
The Gold Coast University Hospital fever clinic is advising those getting a COVID-19 test of a 72-hour wait for results.
Some results at that clinic have been back to patients on the same day.
A general medical certificate is provided to people when they undergo the testing.
The courthouse is operating at its pre-pandemic capacity, but a few safeguards remain.
Defendants are checked off at the door by security as they enter, each courtroom has a limit on the number of people in the public gallery and those sitting must leave an empty seat between them and the next person.
Security have been turning away some people and telling them to get tested after they revealed they had symptoms or had been in contact with someone with the virus.
Former Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts said the court's priority was public safety, which included making sure those with symptoms were tested.
"I would have thought the court were demanding some proof," he said.
A spokesman for the office of the Chief Magistrate Terry Gardiner said there were no concerns people were using the coronavirus to manipulate the justice system.
"If a prosecutor believes a person does not have a reasonable excuse for non-appearance, this can be raised with the presiding magistrate," he said.
"If a defendant does not appear in court in accordance with their bail obligation, the court may issue a warrant for their arrest."
The spokesman said the court would also accept telephone or video appearances if that was more appropriate.
Originally published as 'Taking the p*ss': Crooks using COVID to dodge court