What to expect when you go to Court?
Your time at Court can be a stressful and uncertain one.
We have provided you below with some tips on how to make this difficult day a bit easier.
What are the general Court times?
Court normally sits between 9.30am and 4.00pm from Monday to Friday.
What are the basic Court rules that I should be aware of?
- Make sure you have switched off your mobile phone.
- Remember to bow to the Court as you enter and leave the Court. This shows respect for the Court and the Criminal Justice System.
- Do not chew gum, drink or smoke inside the Courtroom.
- Be quiet in the courtroom, show respect for the court, the judge and other people in the courtroom.
What do I wear?
Wear conservative, comfortable clothes, do not wear revealing or tight clothes.
Make sure you look clean, neat and tidy.
Guys, make sure you shave. Do not wear hats or sunglasses.
What to think about when getting to Court
If you are catching public transport make sure you check the timetables and leave plenty of time to get there, to find the Court and your Courtroom and allow for any unforeseeable mishaps.
If you are driving, or have someone else to drive you, again, make sure you allow enough time for traffic or parking issues and familiarize yourself with the route before the Court date.
How long do trials take?
This depends on each matter, factors such as the complications of the case, the number of witnesses and the strength of arguments all play a role in how long the trial will last.
Some Local Court hearings take less than a day, some a few days, others take months, particularly in the higher courts.
Do you have to give evidence?
New South Wales law says that an accused person does NOT have to give evidence in their own case. This is a very important decision to be discussed with your lawyer.
Do you need a lawyer?
No. It is up to you if you want to be legally represented.
If you do not have enough funds, then you may engage Legal Aid to represent you, free of charge. It is recommended that you are legally represented as a lawyer will be better able to present your case to the magistrate.
Do you need to take an oath?
Yes, you will be asked to take an oath or affirmation to promise that the evidence you are giving is the whole truth.
What are the different types of evidence given during a Court hearing?
- Evidence-in-chief – This is when the prosecutor asks questions of witnesses.
- Cross-examination – This is when the defence questions the witnesses.
- Re-examination – This is when the prosecution is allowed to ask further questions of witnesses.
Each witness for the prosecution are questioned and cross-examined. Then witnesses for the defence will be called for questioning and cross-examination. Once all evidence has been given to the Court, each side’s legal representatives make their closing speeches.
If your hearing is a summery one in the Local Court, then the magistrate makes a decision as to whether you are guilty or not guilty and decides on appropriate sentencing. In a jury trial, the jury members decide, if beyond reasonable doubt, they consider you to be guilty. The Judge will then decide the sentence at a later Court date.
What are the different types of Court hearings and events?
- Summary Hearings are where the magistrate determine the case by either convicting the accused, dismissing the matter, or making some other order regarding the accused.
- Committal Hearings – are where the magistrate decides if the matter should be committed for trial in the District or Supreme Courts.
- Mentions are pre-hearing Court events where the case is decided if it is ready.
Can the media report on every Court case?
Most Court cases are open to the public and therefore the media. Some cases which are deemed so sensitive in nature, may be heard in a closed court where the public and therefore the media are excluded from the courtroom.
What are Victim Impact Statements?
If you have been found guilty, certain victims of your crime may be entitled to provide the Court with a written statement about how the offences you have been convicted of, have affected them.
Immediate family members of a victim who has died as a result of an offence may also make victim impact statements.
What is a Pre-Sentence Report?
This report provides the Court with details of the offender and is prepared by a Probation and Parole Officer to help the Court decide on appropriate sentencing for the offender.