Rapid tests to help NSW jury trials return

Routine rapid antigen testing will be introduced into the nation’s largest criminal court in order to return jury trials to Sydney.

© Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS About 200 trials have been vacated and countless others delayed since Sydney entered its lockdown.

Jurors will also need to be fully vaccinated to serve on trials as the NSW District Court tries to address a growing backlog.

The court on Friday said it would build on social distancing measures implemented in 2020, which included larger jury rooms, individualised meals for jurors, and mandatory face-mask wearing.

About 200 trials have been vacated and countless others delayed since Sydney entered its current lockdown on June 26.

Other than select regional areas no longer in lockdown, most District Courts – including those in Sydney and Newcastle – are not holding jury trials. The new jury trial regime will commence on October 25.

Chief Judge Justice Derek Price said the court had done “everything possible during the lockdown to keep matters progressing” with judges hearing judge-alone trials, sentence matters, appeals and other matters virtually.

“I am pleased to outline the steps that will be taken to enable the return of jury trials in a way that is in the interests of the health and wellbeing of all court participants,” he said.

Rapid antigen testing will apply to all court participants.

“If you get a juror summons, please answer it,” Attorney-General Mark Speakman said.

In a normal year, the District Court holds about 1000 jury trials. It also stopped empanelling juries for three months last year as a result of the pandemic

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