While criminal courts regularly direct that persons in custody be brought to court in relation to their criminal proceedings, what is the position when a person in custody wants to or is required to attend court for civil proceedings?
The answer is found in the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999. Section 77(1) of the Act allows an “appropriate authority” to make an order directing the Commissioner of Corrective Services to ensure that the prisoner is produced before the court where the proceeding is being held.
The section gives the “appropriate authority” a wide discretion as to when it can make such an order. The appropriate authority need only be satisfied that:
“(a) it is necessary that an inmate should attend before it for the purposes of any legal proceeding, inquest or inquiry, and
(b) the absence of the inmate may prejudice the rights of a party.”
“Appropriate authority” is also broadly defined. Under S77(5) of the Act, “appropriate authority” is defined as:
“(a) a court, or
(b) a coroner, or
(c) the Independent Commission Against Corruption, or
(d) a Royal Commission, or
(e) the Civil and Administrative Tribunal, or
(f) the senior administrative officer (such as the clerk or registrar) of a court, or
(g) a person prescribed by the regulations for the purposes of this definition.”
The definition of “court” is also broadly defined in S77(5).
Thus, if practitioners require the attendance of a prisoner in a court or tribunal in proceedings other than the prisoner’s own criminal matter, they can also seek an order pursuant to S77.