Important 

On the day of your court hearing arrive at 9.00am and check in with Registry on the 1st floor. 

It is important that you attend your hearing.

Failure to attend may result in a warrant being issued for your arrest, or your matter may be heard and determined without you.

If you cannot attend your hearing call Registry as a matter of urgency on (03) 9948 8600.

Legal assistance

It's highly recommended that you get legal assistance as early as possible.

If you do not have a lawyer by your hearing day, one of our duty lawyers will assess your needs and options as soon as possible.

The Duty Lawyer service is for people who do not have their own lawyer and is provided by:

  • Victoria Legal Aid
  • Fitzroy Legal Service 
  • Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service 

Duty lawyer help is free for those who meet the requirements (External link)

 

Prepare for court

Going to court requires preparation. Apart from your legal preparation, here's some simple ways to get ready. 

What to wear

  • Men: wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and closed toe shoes, or runners.
  • Women: wear long pants, or knee length or longer skirt, a top with sleeves, and any footwear but thongs.

Dressing for court extends to lawyers and court staff who show their respect to the court and to you by also dressing appropriately.

Court manners

  • Bow your head to the Magistrate when you enter and leave court 
  • When the Magistrate enters or leaves, the bench clerk will say “all rise”. Everyone must stand 
  • Call the Magistrate ‘Your Honour’.

Visit first

If you’re anxious about going to court, come in a few days before to familiarise yourself with the Centre. Court Network  can also help you prepare.

Observing court

Like other courts, the NJC Court is open to the public and we welcome visitors to watch the court in session.  You can take notes and sketches of proceedings.

But recording hearings on any device or recording/filming anywhere in the building is strictly forbidden unless prior consent is granted by the Court or Director.

Children at court

Court is not a suitable place for children. We encourage you to organise someone to look after your children at home or bring friend to look after them. 

If these options aren't possible, we can find ways to help you.

Filling in time

We'd like to say your matter will be heard on time, but you may wait longer than anticipated. You're welcome to bring headphones to listen to music, or bring a friend for support. 

Food and drink

We provide free tea/coffee (or slightly posher coffee at $3.50), and hot food, including lunch.  You may be eligible for free lunch. Your lawyer or one of our court support staff will let you know. 

Interpreting service

We will organise an interpreter, including Auslan, if you need one. Let us know in advance. Call  (03) 9948 8600.

Be informed

Use MyCase our smartphone service so your lawyer, case worker, and court staff can keep you informed via SMS/text. 

MyCase is not an app so there's nothing to install/uninstall.

A Court Network volunteer or Registrar will sign you in. Our short video (External link) explains how it works. 

Support 

No matter why you are attending court, you'll find support, practical help, and someone to talk to.

Court Network

Court Network provides personal support, non-legal information and referral services to anyone going through the justice.

CourtNetwork volunteers introduce themselves on the day or you can organise their assistance at any time on 1800 681 614 (toll free). 

Salvation Army Chaplain

Our Salvation Army Chaplain provides practical and emotional support before, during, and after court (including the sentencing period and jail). 

The Chaplain helps people of all faiths, backgrounds, or sexual orientation.

Inside the courtroom

Understanding proceedings

Our Magistrate and legal teams speak in plain and simple English so everyone understands what's happening.

Who sits where

Accused/offenders (or the Respondent) sit at the bar table beside their lawyer. (Only people who are held in custody sit in the dock).

In most other Magistrates' Courts accused/offenders/respondents usually sit in the front row of the public seats. At our court, we want people to be part of what's going on. It may be overwhelming, but it will assist you to get more out of your hearing.

Friends and family sit in the public seats.

Pleading guilty

If you plead guilty, the police prosecutor will read a summary of the charges and then you (or your lawyer) will speak on your behalf. 

If you are pleading not guilty, your matters will be adjourned to another day. Your lawyer will discuss this with you.. 

Self-representation

Even for minor charges the law can be complicated, which is why we encourage people to seek legal assistance.

If you opt to self-represent, you must prepare.  Visit  Victoria Legal Aid  (External link) to find more on:

  • your charges, and if you have a defence
  • how to prepare for court
  • what to bring with you
  • how to put your case forward to the magistrate

Our court is conducted in plain, easy-to-understand language, but you should always as the Magistrate to clarify anything you do not fully understand. 

Sentencing

In the Magistrates' Court, sentences are the decisions made by a Magistrate after a matter is heard.

It is important you understand your sentence.  

You can ask the Magistrate to explain anything you don't understand and your  lawyer will also explain what needs to happen next after you leave court.

 

Understanding sentences

Sentences are the penalties imposed by courts for breaking the law. Sentences are made using laws and rules set down by Parliament and other court decisions. 

We include this brief overview of sentencing so you understand more about Magistrates' Courts, but your lawyer is the best person to talk to about the details of your particular matter. 

Diversions

A diversion program is a way to account for the person to account for their actions and make amends, but avoid a criminal record.  Diversion programs usually involve court orders to perform activities such as completing treatment or behaviour change programs, and writing a letter of apology to the victim.

Once successfully completed, the police drop the charges, there is no finding of guilty, and no criminal record. 

Diversion programs usually go for a year.

Adjourned undertaking

If a magistrate finds the person guilty but releases the person to the community, this is called an adjourned undertaking.  

An 'undertaking' is the person's promise to the court to follow the courts instructions, be of good behaviour, and not offend again.  A magistrate may add 'conditions' to the adjourned undertaking, for example the person may be ordered to get drug treatment, or stay away from certain places.

A magistrate may give an adjourned undertaking with or without a conviction.

Fine

On a finding of guilt, a magistrate may order a sum of money be paid in set period of time. A fine may be imposed without a conviction.

You’ll find more information at fines.vic.gov.au (External link) or Fines and Penalties  (External link)at the Magistrates’ Court website.

Community Correction Order (CCO) 

A CCO is an order imposed by a magistrate that allows the person to remain in the community. Orders come with conditions, which may include 

  • unpaid community work
  • job training
  • treatment and rehabilitation program
  • not associating with a person or group of people
  • not going to certain places, including pubs, parts of the city 
  • restrictions on where you can or cannot live

The maxim length for a CCO is two years. A breach of the order can result in an immediate jail term.

Jail term

If the person is found guilty of a serious offence the person may have to serve time in prison. This is called a 'custodial sentence'. 

Knock-on effects

In addition to any of the above penalties, the court may suspend or cancel a person's driving licence, or order the person to pay financial compensation to the victim/s, or pay for for any damage to property caused by the crime.

After your hearing

Depending on why you are in court, a number of things can happen.  Your lawyer will discuss everything with you.

For non-custodial sentences, such as Community Corrections Order or an Adjourned Undertaking a copy of the orders will be handed to you on the day.  

Keep the orders safe. But if you need another copy, contact the Centre.

Fines are posted out in the mail.