Legal Insights

Maddocks hosts first 'online' panel hearing

By Kristin Richardson

• 23 April 2020 • 2 min read

Maddocks recently facilitated the first “online” Panel hearing for Amendment C171 port being the panel dealing with the redevelopment of the St Kilda Marina. Maddocks acted for the Council as the proponent. Pursuant to the directions of the Panel, the Panel hearing was conducted using a combination of “on the papers” (for Council’s Part A and Part B submissions) and videoconferencing technology, in this instance Skype (for evidence and cross-examination), and other modified directions concerning circulation of questions.

Four expert witnesses gave evidence over two days (6 and 7 April 2020) and were cross-examined by 6 submitters and 3 Panel members over Skype for Business (a secure video conferencing platform). A further innovation of the Panel was the direction that all questions (from the Panel and from submitters) were to be submitted in advance of the hearing in writing – with the ability to supplement the questions during cross-examination.

A third day was scheduled last week (16 April 2020) for submitters to present their submissions, and for Council to present its closing submissions, again using the secure Skype for Business video conferencing platform.

There were around 16 participants involved each day overall, including observers. Submitters without access to adequate internet were able to phone into the hearing via a direct teleconference facility which Maddocks merged with the Skype for Business video conference platform.

Facilitating the “online” hearing open to the public involved Maddocks sending out Skype invitations to all persons who wished to participate containing a link to access the online hearing through Skype, as well as a phone number and password for those phoning in. In advance of the hearing, Maddocks circulated a letter to all persons wishing to participate containing IT tips and “etiquette rules” to assist participants with managing the technology.

These unprecedented times call for creative solutions and adaptation within the context of the legislation. PPV is to be congratulated for trying new ways to accommodate an open panel hearing in the face of difficult circumstances where we are all unsure what the new normal will be perhaps for some time. Maddocks acting for Council, has been pleased to be able to facilitate the “online” panel hearing forum much like a council might normally make a venue available for the panel hearing. Starting at the normal 10am time we even took our 11.30 coffee break, our 1pm lunch break and the afternoon tea break and finished between 4.30pm and 5pm. Some things never change.

If you have an upcoming Panel hearing scheduled, please let us know if we can assist you in facilitating a hearing using videoconferencing technology to ensure an open and public hearing is possible. In addition to Skype for Business, we are exploring a number of other secure videoconferencing platforms. For the time being, caution is being exercised in the use of Zoom given the concerns outlined in media and other IT channels.

Please contact a member of our Planning and Environment team if you have any further questions.

Maddocks has produced guides to a range of legal issues raised by COVID-19. You can access these guides here.

Looking for more information?

Get in touch with the Planning and Environment team.

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