On Tuesday night, the NSW Government passed the COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Bill 2020 which aims to combat the spread of COVID-19 and boost community safety.
Attorney General Mark Speakman stated the Government is acting swiftly to ensure the State is as prepared as possible to respond to the COVID-19 threat and that these extraordinary measures aim to reduce the risk of spreading the virus further.
With many noteworthy amendments contained in the Bill, a particularly interesting development is the emergency regulation for altering arrangements to sign and witness documents. The Bill enabled the making of regulations that could override existing acts to prescribe altered arrangements for the signature and witnessing of documents.
Further changes include providing police with the power to take immediate action on individuals who are not complying with COVID-19 public health orders, including returning individuals to their home or place of quarantine.
Courts may order a judge alone trial if the accused consents after receiving legal advice, even if the prosecution objects, if the Court considers it in the interest of justice. Furthermore, Courts will allow greater use of recordings in all proceedings, while appearances and evidence may occur via video link.
The Bill also permitted NSW Health utility of private health facilities, supermarkets to trade over Easter, freedom to postpone upcoming elections, and even allows some of the State’s prisoners to be released early on parole. Mr Speakman commented that not all prisoners are suitable for release and “the Commissioner of Corrective Services is to prioritise vulnerable offenders and others who pose a low risk to the community for consideration for conditional release”.
He stated “these temporary measures will help ensure we are ready for any development. If urgent action is required to ensure the health and safety of the people of NSW, this Bill will help to empower the relevant experts and public bodies to make tough and swift decisions in the best interests of the community.”
We appreciate there may be further developments within this space and will continue to provide further updates when available.