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At court

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Summary

When you come to the NJC for court, you should go to the first floor and let the registry staff know you have arrived. 

What happens at court?

When you come to the NJC for court, you should go to the first floor and let the registry staff know you have arrived. 

The Centre has one courtroom and one magistrate. (If you are attending VCAT there will be a 'member' rather than a 'magistrate'.)

You can call the Magistrate 'Your Honour' or 'Sir' or 'Madam'. You can call the VCAT member 'Sir', 'Madam' or 'Member'. Participation is encouraged at the Centre, and in court this means that the magistrate may ask you direct questions.

The Neighbourhood Justice Centre (NJC) court sits as a:

  • Magistrates' Court
  • Children's Court (Criminal Division)
  • Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT)
  • Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT)

The NJC has a range of support services available to you if you are coming to court. Click here to read more.

At the Magistrates' Court

In most cases if a person wishes to contest their criminal charges they are adjourned to the Melbourne Magistrates' Court. You must decide before your hearing whether you are going to plead guilty or not guilty. It is important to get legal advice in making this decision.

To organise legal advice before your hearing, telephone 9948 8777 or visit us at 241 Wellington St Collingwood Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. 

If you have not had time to arrange legal advice before the day of your hearing, ask a registry staff member to arrange a duty lawyer to meet with you.

When your name is called, you will move to the front table. You will be shown where to go. The Magistrate will generally ask you sit down. Generally, the defendant will sit at the Bar Table with their legal representative unless the person is in custody. The magistrate, in most instances, will speak with the defendant in addition to listening to their lawyer and other relevant people

If you plead guilty, the police prosecutor will read a summary of the charges and then you (or your lawyer) will speak in your defence. If you are pleading not guilty, your matters will normally be adjourned to another day which your lawyer will advise you about.

In some cases the Magistrate might suggest an out-of-court problem meeting organised by the Neighbourhood Justice Officer (NJO) involving you, your lawyer, and other relevant people.

Sentencing

At the NJC court, sentencing for people convicted of an offence follows the same laws as other Victorian courts. There is one additional option: the availability of deferred sentences for persons over 25 years of age. Community Correctional Services staff are also based at the Centre to support people who receive community-based sentences.

Sentencing is the process that takes place in a court after a person has pleaded guilty or has been found guilty of a crime.  The magistrate determines the most appropriate penalty to be imposed, taking into account the maximum penalty, all of the circumstances of the case and the effect of the offence on people involved.

While it might seem that the magistrate has complete discretion to decide a penalty, they are actually following a complex set of requirements established by Parliament in sentencing legislation and other court decisions about the principles that could apply in different types of cases.

Laws that govern sentencing

There are a number of Acts containing legislation related to sentencing. Sentencing of offenders in Victoria is governed by the Sentencing Act 1991. The laws relating to the sentencing of young people are contained in the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005

The NJC Approach: increasing accountability and reducing crime

At times, the sentences at the Centre require a lot of effort on the part of the offender. Offenders may be required to complete a comprehensive corrections program and have intensive management and monitoring. This is helping to increase accountability of offenders, helping them to complete court and community orders successfully.

In the NJC community corrections program, offenders sentenced in court with community orders, are supervised by community corrections officers to perform unpaid work that benefits the local community. This is a valuable way for offenders to contribute back the community for the harm or damage caused by their offending behaviour.

The Court at the NJC, while having largely the same sentencing options as any other Court can, and does in appropriate cases, adopt a different approach to the sentencing of offenders.

The different approach includes:

  • seeking of reports (either written or oral) from service providers within the NJC or sometimes from services external to the NJC
  • adjourning for the purpose of a problem solving meeting
  • adjourning for the purposes of the defendant demonstrating to the Court that he or she is committed to their rehabilitation and addressing the underlying causes of the offending and, on occasions, hearing directly from the victim.

At VCAT

At the NJC the VCAT member hears a range of disputes including residential tenancies (housing), small claims and guardianship and administration matters.

In most cases, people give their evidence from where they are seated and not from the witness box.

In addition to accessing the Centre's support and court services, people attending VCAT hearings are encouraged to consider alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services. The member strongly encourages this especially in small claims cases.

The mediation coordinator is available to meet applicants and respondents to discuss ways of resolving disputes outside the tribunal.

Mediation can be arranged before the date of your hearing. Please contact our registry staff on 9948 8600 for assistance.

 

Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that this website may contain images and voices of people who have died.

Reviewed: 19/12/2014 © 2016 State Government of Victoria