Going to court can be frightening. The problem for many people is that they are not familiar with what happens at court. There is a process to follow and the last thing anyone wants is to make a fool of themselves in front of a Magistrate or Judge. After all, what you choose to do or say in court can change the outcome, for better or worse.

Criminal/Traffic matters

The first court date is called a ‘mention’. You must attend court on the first court date unless you have signed a bail undertaking and have legal representation.

  1. The depositions clerk calls you and then calls ‘all rise’ as the magistrate enters and sits at the bench.
  2. The magistrate stands and reads out the charges against you.
  3. The magistrates asks you how you plead—guilty or not guilty.
  4. Either you or your defence lawyer stands and responds.
  5. For simple offences:
    1. You or your lawyer may ask for an adjournment for more time to consider a plea and set a date.
    2. You may plead guilty and the magistrate listens to submissions or information presented, then decides on a penalty.
    3. You may plead not guilty to a simple offence and the magistrate sets a summary hearing. (The magistrate may set other ‘mentions’ before the summary hearing to confirm each party is prepared.)
  6. For indictable offences:
    1. You may plead guilty to a minor indictable offence and the magistrate either decides the penalty then or sets a date for a sentence hearing.
    2. For other indictable offences, the magistrate sets a committal hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to send the defendant to trial in the Supreme or District Court.

Domestic Violence

Your first court appearance is called a ‘mention’. A mention is a short court appearance where the magistrate will check if the application for a Domestic Violence Protection Order has been served on the respondent and find out if the respondent agrees or disagrees with the application for a domestic violence order. You do not need to bring any witnesses to the first court appearance.

The respondent (the person who is said to have committed domestic violence) has the following options at the first mention:

  • agree (consent) to a domestic violence order being made; the respondent can only agree to a domestic violence order being made if they are in court when they consent, or through a lawyer or in writing; the respondent can agree to a domestic violence order being made without admitting to the facts—this is called ‘consenting without admission’.
  • ask for the court proceedings to be adjourned (put off) to another date so they can get legal advice.
  • oppose the order­—if this happens, the court may give you a hearing date which is the date the matter will be heard in full and any witnesses will be questioned.
  • do nothing (and not attend court); if the respondent has been served with the application for a domestic violence order the order can be made in their absence.

If the respondent asks to adjourn the application for a domestic violence order, the applicant should ask the Magistrate for a temporary protection order until the next court date.

If you are going to court for a criminal, traffic or domestic violence matter it is worthwhile to seek legal advice. At Watling Roche Lawyers we are available 24/7 to answer your questions and we offer a free consultation so you get the advice you need before you go to court. Call or SMS us now for your FREE CONSULTATION!