Returning To Court

This step-by-step guide is mainly taken from the webpage ‘Preparing for Court’ developed by LawAccess NSW. It is designed to help people who are dealing with legal problems in New South Wales without a lawyer (i.e., when you ‘self-represent’).

See:  www.lawassist.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au/lawassist/driving_offences_and_crime/ pleading_guilty/preparing_for_court.html#1

A very useful book to read is ‘Guilty your Honour’ by Helen Walsh, available online:

http://www.legalanswers.sl.nsw.gov.au/guides/guilty_your_honour/

It is about representing yourself in NSW local courts when charged with drink driving, but has very good general information about what to expect when in Court for any traffic matter, and what you can do when you self-represent yourself in Court.

5 STEPS

Here are five steps that we recommend

Before you return to Court, you should:

Step 1:         Consider getting some legal advice

Step 2:         Confirm your court date

Step 3:         Prepare your submissions

Step 4:         Prepare your documents

Step 5:         Plan what to take

Step 1

Step 1: Getting some legal advice

If you’re undertaking the Blacktown TOP, you have already been to Court. But it doesn’t hurt to get some legal advice regarding your Return to Court. A lawyer can help you with what documents to prepare and what to say to the magistrate. You may be able to get legal advice from :

·       LawAccess NSW is a free government telephone service and website that provides legal information and referrals for people who have a legal problem in New South Wales. For more information, go to the website at www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au or call 1300 888 529.

  • Anyone can get free face-to-face legal advice at a Legal Aid NSW office. The appointments are usually limited to about 20 minutes. Some people may get a grant of legal aid for legal representation in their case. For more information, go to the website at www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au
  • Community Legal Centres NSW offer a range of free legal services including information and referral, as well as advice on legal matters. Some centres provide legal advice over the phone and hold interview and advice sessions after business hours. For more information, go to thewebsite at www.clcnsw.org.au
  • The Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT), also known as ALS, does legal work in criminal law, children’s care and protection law and family law. ALS assists Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, women and children through representation in court, advice and information, and referral to further support services. For more information, go to thewebsite at www.alsnswact.org.au

Step 2

Step 2: Confirm your court date

Your referral from the Court listed your Return to Court date.  Blacktown TOP uses that date to prepare the papers for the Court relating to your attendance and participation.  Your assignments (Commencement Assignment, weekly session assignments, and Completion Summary) and the Return to Court certificate, are sent to the Court, based on that date.

 

If you miss your court date, or if you are late, the court may make a decision without you (in your absence). If the court makes a decision in your absence, you will not be able to explain your version of events and the court won’t be able to take your personal circumstances into consideration. You may be able to apply for an annulment of the decision. For more information, see ‘If you miss court’ at

See:  www.lawassist.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au/lawassist/driving_offences_and_crime/

responding_to_a_charge/if_you_miss_court.html

Step 3

Step 3: Prepare your submissions

It is a good idea to write down the main points you want to tell the magistrate. These are called ‘submissions’. They can be helpful if you forget what to say when you get to court.

 

Submissions are what you say to the Magistrate to tell them about the offence, your circumstances and what penalty you would like the Magistrate to consider. You will have a chance to make your submissions after the Magistrate has read the documents provided by the Police Prosecutor, and the Magistrate has read any documents provided by you. Make sure what you say is well organised and not too long. The Magistrate wants to know why and how you committed the offence and what kind of person you are. This may mean giving the Magistrate a lot of information about yourself, some of which you may regard as private.

 

On the day, all of your assignments (the Commencement Assignment, the weekly session assignments, and the Completion Summary) and the Return to Court certificate are held by the Police Prosecutor. When your case is called, these documents will be handed up to the Magistrate. The Completion Summary that you wrote for Blacktown TOP can be a handy document to use. If you are nervous, indicate to the Magistrate that the Completion Summary has, on the first page, your statement of how you are planning to avoid re-offending, and your comments about which parts of the program you thought were most informative (and why).

If you are nervous about speaking in court, you can:

  • practice speaking to the Magistrate with one of your friends or relatives
  • go to a local court and watch some cases. If you ring the court, you can find out the dates and times that sentencing hearings relating to traffic matters are held. As a hint, if your return to Court date is, say, on a Monday, then it is likely that traffic matters are usually heard on Mondays. Courts are open to the public and you can sit in the public area at the back of any court and watch.  If you have any questions, ask the Court staff for their advice.
  • put your submissions in writing by preparing a letter to the Magistrate.

 

For a guide of what to include in your submissions, see the checklist at:

www.lawassist.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au/lawassist/checklist_submissions.html

A sample submission can be read at:

www.lawassist.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au/lawassist/sample_submissions.html

When making your submissions you can use the following order:

  • The circumstances of the offence
  • Your personal history
  • Your education history
  • Your employment history
  • Your financial circumstances – this is important when the Magistrate considers any fine that may be imposed
  • Evidence of your good character
  • Your criminal and driving history
  • Your need for a drivers licence
  • (For drink drivers) Mandatory Interlock Order
  • (For repeat offenders) Habitual Traffic Offender Declaration (if it could be imposed)
  • Your remorse
  • Court orders you would like to suggest (such as a bond, or a s.10 dismissal), where you say “I would like your Honour to consider . .  .”

A more detailed discussion about these points can be read at

See: www.lawassist.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au/lawassist/driving_offences_and_crime/ pleading_guilty/preparing_for_court/your_submissions.html

 

Step 4

Step 4: Prepare your documents

It is a good idea to get two or three character references. Character references are letters to the magistrate written by referees (people) who know you and can write about your good character. These referees should have a good reputation, should not have a criminal record and must know why you are going to court.

You should also take any evidence you have that supports the things you say in your submissions, such as medical certificates, receipts, a letter or report from a counsellor and evidence of your income and assets (e.g., payslips, etc.). For more information about documents the court may take into consideration, see ‘Your documents’ at:

See: www.lawassist.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au/lawassist/driving_offences_and_crime/ pleading_guilty/preparing_for_court/your_documents.html

You should take the original and three copies of any documents you intend to show the court. The original will be kept by the court. You will need to give one copy to the Police Prosecutor, keep one for your records and have a spare.

Step 5

Step 5: Plan what to take

You should take the following things with you to court, as appropriate:

  • the infringement notice(s) given by police or fines information received from the State Debt Recovery Office
  • the Police Facts Sheet or other documents you have received from the police
  • the letter(s) you have received from NSW Roads and Maritime Services
  • your submissions or a letter to the Magistrate
  • your character references
  • any other relevant evidence

Make sure that you also:

  • take a notebook and pen to make notes.

You can speak to the Police Prosecutor about getting a copy of the Police Facts Sheet and your criminal and/or driving record, if you don’t already have it. The Prosecutor will be wearing a suit, not a uniform. They will be sitting on one side of the bar table in the middle of the courtroom, and they will usually have a large pile of files with them. You might also check with the Prosecutor that the Blacktown TOP Return to Court certificate indicating you have finished the program has been received and is on file. If it hasn’t, speak with Court staff and they can get in touch with the Co-ordinator (mob 0418 494 022) to get a new copy sent to the Court urgently.

Presentation counts!

The Court is a formal place, and its rules are followed very closely. When you are to appear at the Court, wear neat clothing – this can mean for men, a suit, or trousers, shirt and coat. Wear shoes. For women, dress as you would for a job interview.  If you dress in a particular way for cultural reasons, wear the clothing you would wear to a formal event or ceremony. If still at school, a school uniform can be appropriate.  If you wear a uniform at work, then that will be appropriate too.

If you wear something that the Court regards as inappropriate, the Magistrate can order that your matter be adjourned until you can attend in suitable clothes.

For more information

For more information about what might happen at court, you should watch the video available at the bottom of the webpage:

See:  www.lawassist.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au/lawassist/driving_offences_and_crime/

pleading_guilty/preparing_for_court.html#1

or on YouTube under the heading ‘LawAssist – Pleading guilty and making submissions’:

You can also read a transcript of the video by downloading a Word file, again from the bottom of the webpage at:

See:  www.lawassist.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au/lawassist/driving_offences_and_crime/

pleading_guilty/preparing_for_court.html#1