Fact sheet – Your first time at court unrepresented

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How should I prepare for the first time I go to court?

Dress as if you were going to a job interview. Make sure you have the correct details, time, date and the address of the court house. You can check that you have the correct details by visiting: Magistrates Court - Court Lists.

Arrive 15 minutes earlier than stated on your summons/bail document. To make sure you pass through the security check, obey the court staff's instructions. Take only the bags you need, avoid taking children if possible, avoid carrying any metal objects and of course do not take weapons. Check the court lists to find out which court room your case will be heard in. Make sure you wait nearby so you will hear your name being called. If you are seeking a first appearance adjournment a Court Clerk may call for all people seeking an adjournment to enter the court room and the Court Clerk will hear all these adjournments. This may not happen every time, therefore, if this does not occur wait for your name to be called.

If you need help, ask the reception or security staff. If you wish to speak to the Duty Lawyer ask reception staff to point you in the direction of the duty lawyer on that day.

Who else will be in the court room?

When you enter the room there will be a Magistrate, Police Prosecutor, Security Officer, Court Clerk, members of the public and sometimes journalists called Court Reporters.

Your name will be read out and you need to stand facing the Magistrate. The Court Clerk will read out the charges and will ask you what you plead; guilty or not guilty. If you are still unsure if you should plead guilty or not guilty, ask the Magistrate if you can have your case postponed to a later date by seeking an adjournment. On your second appearance the Magistrate may expect you to plead guilty or not guilty to the charge(s).

What is an adjournment?

An adjournment is when your matter is postponed to a later date. You only have a right to an adjournment on the first time you go to court. To request an adjournment at your first appearance simply say "Your Honour, this is my first appearance on this charge(s) and I seek an adjournment".

Can I have a support person with me?

Whilst you can have a support person with you, they must not interfere with the proceedings. Like you, they must not record or take photographs/video without specific permission from the Magistrate. A support person cannot represent you or be called as a witness because witnesses must stay out of the court room until they are called.

Can I get it over and done with the first time I go to Court?

If you plead guilty, the Magistrate may deal with the matter straight away and decide on a sentence.

The court clerk will read out the charges. Again, make sure the charges are what you expected before you enter your plea. The Magistrate will then give you an opportunity to enter a plea in mitigation, make sure you have this ready before you to go to court. A plea in mitigation should help you explain why the sentence should be less in your particular circumstances. See our fact sheet on Preparing a plea in mitigation.

If you plead not guilty to the charge(s) the Magistrate will need time to hear your case properly. The Magistrate will require you to return to court and will provide the date and time, this is normally called a mention date.

It is important to remember that if you plead guilty but seem to have a defence, the Magistrate will not accept your plea of guilty. You will be told to seek legal advice. The Magistrate will then set a date for you to return to court.

Last updated: 20-April-2021