Important information 

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

Getting legal assistance as early as possible is highly recommended.  You'll find details to legal services on our Find a Lawyer (External link) page.

If you do not have a lawyer by the day of your hearing our Registry will refer you to one of the lawyers (called a duty lawyers) who work here.

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)

 

Preparing for your day in court

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

What to wear

Men should wear long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt, and closed toe shoes/runners.

Women should 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

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

Visit the court first

If you’re anxious about your day at court, come in a few days before to take a look around, and we’ll explain what happens on the day.

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 as you observe the proceedings.

No one can record hearing on any device, or record/film anywhere in the building.

Children at court

Court is not a suitable place for children, so we encourage you to organise for someone to look after your children rather than bring them to court. If you bring your children, having a friend with you would be best. But if this is not 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

You can get 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

Our Registry will organise interpreters, including Auslan, if you need one.  It's best to phone ahead of your hearing date to organise. Call  (03) 9948 8600.

Know what's going on

Going to court for a criminal matter can be stressful, so knowing what's going on and staying in contact with your lawyer, case worker, our court staff is important.

To keep you in the loop, sign up to MyCase our smartphone service to get updates and information via SMS/text.

It's not an app so there's nothing to install/uninstall, and it only takes a few minutes to sign up.

Court Network volunteer or our Registrars will sign up in.  Our short video (External link) that explains how it works. 

Therapeutic and practical assistance

It may be appropriate for you to be referred to one of our treatment and support services.  Our Client Services team provides a wide range of support services including alcohol and other drug dependency, mental health, counselling, job, employment support, financial counselling and more. 

All services are free, confidential, and  easy to put in place.

Support 

No matter why you are coming to court, you'll find people here to assist you with information, 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. Help includes:

  • Providing Information about going to court and how the legal system works
  • Be with you in person on the day in court
  • Show you around the court before your hearing day so you know what to expect on the day
  • Refer you to community services that can help you
  • Organise an interpreter, disabled access, or a safe place to be while in court 

CourtNetwork volunteers introduce themselves to all clients of our court to ask if help is needed. 

You can also book a Court Network volunteer. Contact Court Network (External link) 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 will talk you through the process, let you know what to expect, and direct you to other services. 

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

What happens at your hearing

Our court is legislated to operate with enough informality to ensure everyone who comes before it understands what's going on, and participates as best as possible.

And for many of our clients, the court may also be a pathway into life-changing treatment and support services. 

No matter why you are going to court, here is a brief look at what you may expect when you step through the doors.

Who sits where

Accused/offenders (or in the case of family violence/personal safety matters, 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 sit behind their lawyers, usually in the front row of the public seats.  At our court, we want people to understanding and 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-represented 

People can represent themselves, but even for minor charges, the law can be complicated. We urge you to get legal advice rather than represent yourself.  If a duty lawyer cannot represent you or you don't have a private lawyer you can still get legal advice. Victoria Legal Aid (External link)has a wealth of information about:

  • 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. Your lawyer will also explain what needs to happen next after you leave court.

 

Understanding sentences

Sentences are the penalties you get for breaking the law.  Magistrates make sentences using laws and rules set down by Parliament and other court decisions. 

We include this brief overview of sentencing options so you understand more about Victoria's criminal justice system.  Your lawyer is the best person to talk to about the details of your particular matter. 

Diversion -ELISSA......

I used VLA's description of a diversion.   "A diversion program is a way to deal with your matter out of the court system and give you a chance to avoid a criminal record."  

I gather however, you thought it was wrong.    I think it's badly worded as the  Magistrate decides who goes on Diversion or not. So as the lay person, this means I'd be in the justice system. 

    I've provisionally change the statement to:   

    "A diversion program is a way to account for your actions and make amends, but avoid a criminal record.
    
   Diversion programs usually involve court orders to perform a number  of activities, such as 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 the Magistrate finds you guilty but releases you to the community, this is called an adjourned undertaking.  

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

The Magistrate may give an adjourned undertaking with or without a conviction.

Fine

On a finding of guilt, the 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 the 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 you are found guilty of a serious offence you may have to serve time in prison, also called a 'custodial sentence'. 

Knock on effects

In addition to any of the above penalties, the court may suspend or cancel your driving licence, pay financial compensation to someone hurt by your crime, or pay for property damaged.

After your hearing

Depending on why you are in court, a number of things can happen.  Your lawyer will explain this further.

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.