Law and order during Covid

Covid-19 has reached into every aspect of our society and lives, affecting us all in many shapes and forms. This has meant Federal and State Governments have had to move quickly and introduce appropriate public health orders as well as other legislation and measures to manage critical issues, expedite decision making and support the economy.

While the Premier and Health Minister have been at the front of media coverage, other Ministers including the Attorney General The Hon. Mark Speakman, have made significant steps to not only address the COVID challenges but also reforms that move us through recovery and for the future.

Preserving, accessing, and advancing justice has been front and centre whether it has been balancing the right to protest, the compliance of social distancing and wearing of face masks, and protecting the health of the community.

One of the many social impacts of the Covid pandemic is the increasing level of domestic violence, driven by factors including financial stress, isolation, changes in the workplace and uncertainty around employment. A portfolio responsibility, the Attorney General had led increased research, provision of emergency accommodation, improved access to medical treatment, greater support to encourage reporting of incidents and counseling for perpetrators.

Increasing and improving access to justice by leveraging technology has also been critical during these times leading to the creation of greater options for virtual court appearances. These have also enabled the backlog of cases to be reduced notably the District Court backlog of over 2,100 cases is now down to 1700 making this approach something worth considering for the Local courts and the Land and Environment Court.

The Attorney General has also moved to address fraud and online scams by providing better protection of our personal data, including legislating for mandatory disclosure by government authorities for any personal information that is been released publicly without consent.

With NSW having the highest number of defamation litigation the Attorney General has been leading national reform of defamation laws. The establishment of a clear public interest defense seeks to facilitate and balance outcomes as well as enable greater opportunity for resolution prior to initiating and proceeding with court actions while ensuring freedom of speech and protections for individuals and organisations.

Over the coming months the privacy and protections around data collection, use and management as well as reforms to criminal justice are key priorities for the Attorney General as we live and learn from Covid and the continue to shape our justice system to protect and support our future.

Sydney Business Chamber held an online forum with The Hon Mark Speakman, NSW Attorney General, on 18 August, 2020.

/Public Release. The material in this public release comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.