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.
If, on an enforcement review application by your client, the Director of Fines Victoria decides to cancel the enforcement of an infringement notice on the basis of special circumstances, then the matter will be referred back to the enforcement agency (s 37 of the Fines Reform Act 2014 (Vic) (FRA)). The enforcement agency may then ‘opt-in’ to withdraw the notice and commence a proceeding for the alleged offence by filing a charge-sheet (s 38(1)(a)(iii) of the FRA). If this occurs for an infringement notice on the basis of special circumstances, then the matter will be referred to the Magistrates’ Court for hearing and determination. See our Infringements Guide for Pro Bono Lawyers below for a step by step guide to consolidating these matters.
Infringements Guide – commencement of proceedings folllowing enforcement review (May 2020)Download PDF (743 KB)
Currently this referral is generally made to the Special Circumstances List however there is currently some doubt about whether this list will continue. If the Special Circumstances List is disbanded these matters are likely to be listed in multiple open court venues and will need to be consolidated in to one hearing in Open Court.
Application for consolidation
Consolidating matters into a single hearing in the Special Circumstances List is essentially a three step process:
Consolidate (and transfer) all General List matters into one hearing (General List Hearing);
Consolidate all Special Circumstances List matters (Specials Hearing); and
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 to be 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 (noting the Special Circumstances List and this phone number may not continue).
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 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 Specials 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.