Bushfires class action trial to stream live for victims

22 February 2013
Victims of the 2009 Black Saturday Kinglake-Kilmore East bushfire have had a pre-trial victory, with the Supreme Court granting them access to live streaming vision of the trial, which begins on Monday 4 March.

Despite the defendants opposing the broadcast of evidence at the trial, Justice Jack Forrest ordered that access to a live stream broadcast of the trial be granted to group members involved in the class action and their immediate families.

The access will be via a password and will allow the estimated 10,000 bushfire affected victims and their families' access to one of the state's largest and most significant trials of 2013, even if they can't physically be there in court.

Senior Associate with Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, Rory Walsh, said the court was right to acknowledge the importance of providing affordable access to the trial for the thousands of people being represented in the class action.

"As Justice Forrest stated, open justice is a fundamental principle of common law and should not only be done, but also be seen to be done - and this is a practical means of achieving that whilst still retaining the integrity of the trial and its evidence," Mr Walsh said.

"While it is a novel approach to allow the entirety of a trial to be broadcasted to group members directly, where the fire affected community is located a considerable distance from the Court room we think this is a sensible and practical solution to the needs of our clients."

As has been the case in previous trials of class actions arising out of Black Saturday bushfires and other trials in this Court, the opening and closing submissions will be available for live streaming to the public.

The filming of the trial will use small, fixed cameras - TV cameras will only be permitted for portions of the opening and closing submissions. Media will have access on request to the trial transcript.