The Supreme Court of Victoria’s 2021-22 annual report was tabled in Parliament on 7 February 2023.
Some points of interest from across the Court included:
- Matters finalised by the Common Law Division increased by 20.5 per cent with finalisations exceeding the number of new cases initiated. The Court of Appeal also finalised more criminal appeals than were initiated.
- 1,035 court days were saved by judicial mediation, with 61 per cent of mediated matters resolving on the day. Costs Court mediations saved a further 449 days of court hearing time.
- A cross-divisional Commercial and Retail Leases list was established in the Common Law Division and Commercial Court to consolidate the management of these proceedings, simplifying the process for court users.
- Associate Justice Fiona Steffensen was appointed as Senior Master, responsible for administering Funds in Court, and is the first woman to be appointed to the role.
- Registry Services answered 8,594 queries from self-represented litigants, an increase of more than 30 per cent on 2020-21.
- eFiling saw the Probate Office reduce the time between filing and obtaining a grant of probate to an average of two days or less, while also managing an increase in applications.
- 2,178 high school students participated in the Court’s online education program, more than doubling the outreach of 2020-21.
The report highlights how the Court has built on the lessons and technological improvements pioneered during the pandemic.
In 2021-22, the Court delivered a combination of virtual, hybrid and in-person hearings and services.
More than 98 per cent of all matters involved some level of digital support and 2,100 matters were made available for access through the live streams webpage or on request.
Visits to the Supreme Court website increased almost 20 per cent to more than 4.2 million views, while visits to the Law Library Victoria website were also up to 2.7 million.
Juries Victoria facilitated 369 trials across the County and Supreme Courts after jury trials returned in October 2021 and restricted capacity requirements eased in March 2022.
Despite the disruptions, the Supreme Court continued hearing regional matters in regional courts where possible. The Criminal Division was able to conduct a number of regional trials, pleas, and hearings, sitting in Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Mildura, Shepparton, and Warrnambool.
Chief Justice Anne Ferguson said while the pandemic continued to have an impact on some operations in 2021-22, it was exciting to see the Court move ahead for the benefit of litigants and the community more broadly.
“This financial year saw the Court transition to a flexible new way of operating, combining the strengths of both in-person and virtual options,” she said.
“The physical doors of the Court have always remained open but it’s wonderful to see more people being able to engage with the work of the Court through the live streaming of matters, especially cases of significant public interest.
“The Court continues to develop means to better meet the needs of court users and the community in a changing landscape.”