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Local Court

  • UPDATE May 13: Some of the below measures have been eased. More details are available.
  • Local Court has suspended all circuit court services effective immediately (these are the court locations listed on the below map).
  • Mentions are to be conducted by way of audio link where possible.
  • For custody mentions, prisoners should appear by audio-visual link from the prison where possible, unless excused if legally represented.
  • Court services in Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs will continue operating with some changes. It is planned for circuit courts to resume on 1 June 2020, and additional days may be required, but the situation is being monitored and may change.
  • Matters affected by these measures will be heard in their base jurisdiction in order to be adjourned. i.e. all Lajamanu Local Court matters listed on 17 March 2020 will be heard at Katherine Local Court on the 17 March 2020.
  • Circuits which involve multiple sitting days all matters will be heard in the base jurisdiction on the first day of the sitting in order to be adjourned. i.e. all Alyangula Local Court matters listed 17-19 March 2020 will be heard in Darwin Local Court on 17 March 2020.
  • Custody matters will be dealt with in the base jurisdiction with defendants appearing by AVL from correctional facilities at first instance. Where possible, matters will proceed from the base jurisdiction.
  • Katherine Local Court will be open and sitting on the previously listed circuit court days.
  • There will be extra phone and AVL resources made available to assist lawyers to take instructions from clients at the Darwin Correctional Centre in Holtz and in the Alice Springs Correctional Centre.
  • In an effort to limit the number of people attending court in person, some court matters will now be dealt with electronically, with measures for electronic filing, and appearances via telephone and AVL being fast-tracked. No application from lawyers is necessary, it will be assumed you will be appearing by phone. As usual, urgent domestic violence orders can be dealt by audio link.
  • The NT Local Courts have hand sanitiser available and put signage in courtrooms about hygiene and social distancing.
  • If anyone is in doubt about what is happening with their Court matter they should ring the closest Court registry
  • Physical access to the Local Court registries will only be by appointment until further notice. Most requests will be able to be resolved via phone, video or email.
Local Court Registry changes
  • NT Courts and Tribunals are moving to help protect the safety and well-being of the public and staff in response to concerns about the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • To assist with these efforts physical access to the Local Court registries will only be by appointment until further notice.
  • Most requests will be able to be resolved via phone, video or email.
  • If someone has a matter in court they may appear via phone or video or by contacting the registry.
  • A full list of registry contact details are available on our website.
Local Court Hearings vacated - April 9 update

The NT Local Court is taking measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and will vacate many hearings scheduled to take place until June 2020.

Under the new measures all general, non-custodial hearings in the Top End have been re-listed for Case Management Inquiry (CMI).
CMI hearings are usually brief procedural listings that enable the matter to be heard by the court at a later date.

  • The rescheduling only affects non-contested matters where nobody is in custody awaiting a court hearing.
  • Under the plans March and April Hearings are now scheduled to go to CMI on 22 June, 2020.
  • The May Hearings will now be dealt with via CMI on 23 June while the June Hearings are now scheduled for CMI on 24 June.
  • Similar arrangements are being made for matters in Alice Springs and Tennant Creek.
  • All existing bail conditions and interim domestic violence orders are continued.
  • The new measures are in addition to the efforts NT Courts and Tribunals have so far made to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in courts.
  • After June 2020 the situation will be re-examined and further changes may be required.
Map of Local Court circuit courts affected by the suspension

NT circuit courts affected by suspension

Children’s Court

  • As per adult court custodial matters, if a youth is detained after arrest their first appearance in court will be via video from a youth detention centre, or by telephone from a police watch house.
  • Youths, when represented, need not attend court unless the matter is expected to finalise.
  • All youths in detention are to appear via AVL.
  • The court and registry will be encouraging the use of AVL and telephone communication. Responsible adults may appear by telephone or AVL.


Supreme Court

  • The Supreme Court will be adopting the following procedures in relation to the categories of hearing set out below. 

  • This notice will be updated as the circumstances require.

Jury trials
  • The Supreme Court has as a precautionary measure suspended all new trials requiring a jury until 5 June 2020.
  • This decision has become necessary as a consequence of the restrictions imposed by the Federal and Territory Governments.
  • Anyone who has been summonsed for jury during the month of April will no longer be required during that time, but should expect a summons when jury trials recommence.
  • Current trials where a jury has already been selected and empanelled will continue.
  • This suspension has no bearing on matters which have been listed for the prerecording of evidence or voir dire hearings which do not require the selection and empanelment of a jury.  Those matters will proceed as presently listed.
  • In taking this step the Court is conscious of the impact this action will have on the administration of justice.  Jury trials will resume as soon as practicable, in a manner consistent with the health and safety of the public.
  • For matters which are currently listed for trial by jury in the period up to 5 June 2020, the Presiding Judge’s Associate will make arrangements with the parties for the conduct of a pre-trial hearing to deal with matters relating to:
  1. the vacation of the existing dates and referral to the criminal call overs on 4 June 2020 (for Darwin matters) or 10 June 2020 (for Alice Springs matters);
  2. programming orders;
  3. the hearing of legal issues that can be addressed prior to trial; and
  4. custody and bail. 
  • The procedures advised below for the conduct of pre-trial hearings will apply to those hearings.
  • A decision will be made one month prior to 5 June 2020 to determine whether it is necessary for the suspension to continue after date.
Pre-trial hearings, mentions and directions hearings
  • Approximately one week out from the listing the Presiding Judge’s Associate will make contact with the parties to advise that the matter will be heard by audio-visual link (if facilities are available in the practitioners’ offices) or telephone.  The parties should provide their contact details to the Presiding Judge’s Associate and the relevant Registry no later than 4:00pm two business days prior to the listing.
  • Where it is a criminal matter, the accused will be excused from attending if legally represented.
  • In the event the parties are in agreement that the matter can be dealt with by consent, the parties may submit their request and the proposed orders by email to the Presiding Judge’s Associate for consideration by the Judge, who may grant leave for the matter to be dealt with in Chambers and make the orders.
  • A party who wishes the matter to proceed by face-to-face hearing rather than by audio-visual or telephone hearing may submit a brief outline by email to the Presiding Judge’s Associate explaining the reasons for that position and the Judge may determine that counsel should appear in person
Supreme Court front counter changes
  • To ensure the safety of staff, practitioners, litigants and the visiting public, from Wednesday, 1 April 2020 the public facing counters in Supreme Court Civil Registry and Sheriff’s Office will be closed.
  • While the counters are closed, the registries will still be operating to provide services and support to practitioners, litigants and the wider community by telephone and email.
  • Practice Direction 1 of 2020 and 2 of 2020 provide directions in relation to the management of criminal and civil proceedings during closure of the public counters, including the filing, issuing and transmission of court documents.
  • Full details are available at the Supreme Court of the NT Notice #4 
Guilty pleas
  • Approximately one week out from the listing the Presiding Judge’s Associate will make contact with the parties to advise that where the accused is remanded in custody he or she will appear by audio-visual link from the prison.
  • In the event of any clash with another plea at that time which will also be conducted by audio-visual link from the same prison some adjustment of the hearing times may be required.
  • A party who wishes the accused to appear in person rather than audio-visual link may submit a brief outline by email to the Presiding Judge’s Associate explaining the reasons for that position.
  • Pre-trial hearings are to be conducted by way of audio link where possible.
Associate Judge's list
  • For Criminal Call Overs, where the accused is remanded in custody he or she will appear by audio-visual link from the prison unless previously excused from attending if legally represented.
  • The Associate Judge’s list will otherwise be conducted exclusively by audio-visual link or telephone.
Admission ceremonies
  • Due to the COVID-19 situation, the admission ceremony scheduled to be held in the Supreme Court on 5 May 2020 has been cancelled.
  • Despite the need to cancel the ceremony, applications for admission to legal practice in the Northern Territory will continue to be processed and heard by the Court on an individual basis to ensure that a candidate's entry to the profession is not delayed.  Applications for admission will be heard separately and before a single Judge, rather than collectively before the Full Court as is ordinarily the case.
  • If a candidate wishes to defer proceedings until travel restrictions have been lifted to allow friends and family from interstate to attend that will be accommodated. 

This notice, which takes effect on 5 May 2020, replaces all previous COVID-19 notices.

In light of improvements in the situation in the Northern Territory and nationally as the Coronavirus Pandemic continues, NTCAT has relaxed some of the measures put in place on 26 March 2020.

Although a complete return to conventional operations is not yet possible, the following measures are designed to enable the tribunal to deal promptly and fairly with proceedings that have been affected by the 26 March 2020 measures (and with new proceedings).

Restoration of cancelled listings
Effective immediately, NTCAT will commence creating new listings for all matters that had listings cancelled as a result of the 26 March 2020 measures.

Cancelled hearings (including directions hearings) and compulsory conferences will be relisted according to the order in which they were originally listed.

Affected parties will receive orders setting out the new arrangements. If, at the time of the cancellation of the listing, there were procedural deadlines that had not arrived, the orders may include adjusted deadlines.

Physical attendance at listings

Effective 18 May 2020, the requirement for remote participation at NTCAT listings will cease.

From that date, parties will once again be expected to attend in person at the tribunal for listings (hearings and compulsory conferences); however, NTCAT will continue to observe and enforce any current social distancing or other relevant safety requirements.

A party wishing to participate at a listing by remote means will once again need to make an application for NTCAT’s permission to do so. Legitimate concerns about COVID-19 vulnerability may be raised in support of such an application.

New proceedings

Applications accepted while the 26 March 2020 measures were in place.

Effective immediately, NTCAT will recommence processing accepted Initiating Applications that were placed in abeyance due to the 26 March 2020 measures.

Affected applications will be processed according to the date on which they were accepted by NTCAT.

Other new applications

Effective immediately(*), NTCAT will resume accepting and processing Initiating Applications for new matters.

(*There may be some small initial delay as the tribunal works through the backlog of accepted applications held in abeyance – see above.)

Adjusted Standard Orders

In line with its usual practice, NTCAT will make standard orders (tailored to the matter type) when returning accepted Initiating Applications to applicants.

The standard orders will include slightly enlarged timetables for procedural steps (for example serving the Initiating Application and providing a Response) to allow for extra difficulties and inconvenience parties may experience as a result of the COVID-19 emergency.

Document lodgements

NTCAT remains unable to accept hard copy documents. A party wishing to submit any document (including an Initiating Application) to NTCAT may only do so by electronic means.

Re-opening of registries

Effective immediately, NTCAT’s physical registries in Darwin and Alice Springs will be reopened to the public; however, as noted above, hard copy documents will not be accepted by NTCAT staff.

Members of the public may also contact NTCAT on 1800 604 622 or email agd.ntcat [at] nt.gov.au

Updates and further information

  • NTCAT will constantly review these restrictions in the coming weeks and months.
  • Details of current measures will be published on the NTCAT website at https://ntcat.nt.gov.au/