Infringements

Infringements

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Consolidating matters

It is common for a client to present to a Homeless Law clinic with numerous infringements, at various stages of enforcement.

It is also common for matters to be listed in various courts or lists, for example, matters listed in the General List of the Melbourne Magistrates' Court, the Special Circumstances List and/or at a suburban Magistrates' Court.

It is sometimes possible to consolidate all proceedings into a single hearing in the Special Circumstances List. However, this procedure can only be followed where the client already has at least one matter that is listed in the Special Circumstances List.

General List versus Special Circumstances List

If the infringement has reached enforcement order stage (that is, it can no longer be the subject of an application for internal review) and, upon application for revocation to the Infringements Registrar on the basis of special circumstances, the Registrar revokes the enforcement order, the matter is automatically referred to the Melbourne Magistrates' Court for hearing and determination in the Special Circumstances List (under sections 65 and 66 of the Infringements Act).

However, if the infringement has not reached enforcement order stage and an application for internal review is made, the enforcement agency can refer the matter to Court under section 17 of the Infringements Act or, if the client makes an application for internal review on the basis of special circumstances and this is rejected, the enforcement agency must refer the matter to Court under section 25(3) of the Infringements Act. When a matter is referred to Court via these mechanisms, the matter will be listed in the General List of the Magistrates' Court (usually in the Court closest to where the infringement occurred). Accordingly, clients may have matters listed in at least three different locations: the General List at Melbourne, the Special Circumstances List at Melbourne, and a third suburban location.

This is an unfortunate consequence of the way that the infringement system currently operates and is a result of the Court's policy that it "will reserve the Special Circumstances List to matters revoked in accordance with section 65(1)(c)".

However, it is sometimes possible to consolidate all hearings into a single hearing in the Special Circumstances List at Melbourne. Importantly, consolidation will ensure that the matters will be heard in a specialised forum and clients will often receive a more favourable sentence as the Magistrate will have familiarity with dealing with people experiencing homelessness and the range of difficulties that they may face.

Application for consolidation

Consolidating matters into a single hearing in the Special Circumstances List is essentially a three step process:

  1. consolidate (and transfer) all General List matters into one hearing (General List Hearing);
  2. consolidate all Special Circumstances List matters (Specials Hearing); and
  3. consolidate the General List Hearing with the Specials Hearing.

Step 1: Consolidate all General List matters

The first step is to transfer and consolidate all matters listed in the General List of the Magistrates' Court. This may involve the following:

  • adjourning (and consolidating) matters listed at Melbourne; and/or
  • adjourning, transferring and consolidating matters listed at a suburban Court.

The aim is to have a single hearing in the General List at Melbourne. Adjourning, transferring and consolidating can be achieved, at first instance, by faxing the relevant Court. The following template can be used to adjourn and consolidate matters listed in different courts:

Step 2: Consolidate all Special Circumstances List matters

The second step is to consolidate all Special Circumstance List matters. This is a very common process that many Homeless Law lawyers would have previously undertaken.

Consolidation/adjournment of matters listed in the Special Circumstance List can be achieved by calling the Enforcement Review Program Co-ordinator on 03 9628 7902.

The aim is to have a single hearing in the Special Circumstances List.

Step 3: Consolidate the General Hearing with the Special Circumstances List Hearing

The third step is to consolidate the General Hearing with the Specials Hearing. Historically, this was not possible and thus clients were required to attend Court on (at least) two occasions, even though the same arguments were being run in each case.

The Magistrates' Court has since given some indication that it is possible to consolidate matters listed in the General List with matters listed in the Special Circumstances List, however, only where the client already has matters listed in the Special Circumstances List.

We understand that consolidation can be achieved by a written application to the Enforcement Review Program Co-ordinator (fax: (03) 9628 7977).

The most important aspect of any consolidation application is to ensure that the Criminal Registrar is aware that the matters listed in the General List have been transferred to the Special Circumstances List.  You should also make sure the prosecutors (for example, Victoria Police, Department of Transport or a local council) are notified of the changes and the re-scheduled hearings. 

This following template which may be adapted for future consolidation applications:

We note that it is not guaranteed that the matters will be consolidated.  For various reasons, including, for example, that the courts were not given sufficient time or the prosecutors are not able to attend the Special Circumstances List hearing, these applications are sometimes refused.  You should attempt consolidation, but both you and your client should be prepared in the event that two separate hearings go ahead.