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LIV card fast-tracks members into courts

LIV card fast-tracks members into courts

By Karin Derkley

Courts COVID-19 

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The LIV members card exempting practitioners from court security screenings to meet distancing requirements during COVID-19 has won universal praise by lawyers who hope it's here to stay.

As well as meeting safety requirements, it fast-tracks lawyers entering court and demonstrates the same trust in practitioners as is afforded police, prosecutors, judges and magistrates.

Criminal lawyer with David Barrese & Associates Heather Anderson says it made her feel "like a VIP being waved through at every court with just a flash of my card. I’ve been through Melbourne Magistrates and County, Heidelberg Magistrates', Sunshine Magistrates' and Ballarat Magistrates' courts with my LIV card and it has been fantastic."

"It has been extremely helpful and has reduced concerns about appearing during COVID-19 as no one has to touch anything of mine."

LIV Criminal Law Section co-chair Mel Walker says the card means lawyers are not having to be “wanded by a security guard standing within half a metre, which effectively breaches the social distancing rules".

"And we're not subject to having to put all our books and personal items on to the conveyor belts which has got a huge risk of cross-contamination."

Most criminal law members already had the cards, which were previously used to give them access to clients held in custody. But following advocacy by the Criminal Law Section on behalf of all members, any practitioner who needs to attend court can now apply for the card.

The LIV has issued more than 400 of the cards since the new arrangements were introduced at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court and the Children’s Court on 27 March, with other courts joining the arrangement as of 15 April.

But apart from keeping legal practitioners safe during the COVID-19 crisis, the card has had other benefits, lawyers say.

Director and principal lawyer at Ajak & Tut Lawyers Daniel Ajak (pictured above) says the card has stopped the previously common occurrence of security staff insisting he go through the public security line on the assumption he must be a member of the public.

"I've had it happen a few times that security guards assume that because of the colour of my skin I should go in the public line, even though I tell them that I am a lawyer."

Apart from the frustration of being discriminated against, that has been a major problem when he's running late and been forced to join the public queue, he says. "Before the card, I’d have to go through security and there'd be a big line and you could miss the start of the hearing."

Mr Ajak says he has had no such problems since being able to use the card. "It's a very distinctive card with the photo and the purple, and when you show it at the door, the card immediately convinces them that you're able to go through the lawyers line."

Tyler Tipping Woods partner and former LIV president Mark Woods says the ability to use the card to get into courts was "miles overdue". "The LIV member card has been absolutely brilliant - and full credit to the LIV for negotiating that deal with the powers that be."

Mr Woods says he has always had a view that requiring lawyers to go through the security scan was "wrong in principle". While police, whether or not they were in uniform, were rightly allowed to go straight through, "we were just being treated like ordinary criminals - even though magistrates and judges acknowledged that we were in fact officers of the court".

That has created an enormous inconvenience for lawyers, especially in regional areas, where lawyers are having to leave and re-enter the court multiple times a day.

The card is being issued for court entry purposes for the duration of the COVID-19 period. But lawyers say its convenience means it should be retained indefinitely.

“We would be expecting that the system which now works and promotes both efficiency and increased access to justice would not be changed by bureaucratic fiat for no reason," Mr Woods says.

"I just hope they keep this up post COVID-19" says Ms Anderson.

"If the LIV could keep it going post-Covid that would be really helpful," Mr Ajak says.

LIV members can apply for the LIV member card by emailing membership@liv.asn.au 

 

 


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