Most courthouses in NSW are closed over the festive season, so early December is often a busy time for courts trying to work through as many cases as possible.
Most courts closed on 21 December and will reopen on 4 January.
For most magistrates, 21 December was the last day of work for the year, but those who had ‘part-heard’ matters (ie cases that are part way through) could choose to have them listed for 22 or 23 December, although no new matters could be listed on those days.
Which raises the question: what happens if, during the festive season, a person is arrested and needs to make a bail application, or an urgent AVO needs to be approved by a magistrate?
Fortunately, not all courts go into complete shutdown over the holiday period – nor do all law firms.
Parramatta Local Court operates out of the Children’s Court building throughout the Christmas / New Year period; and magistrates are available to make determinations about AVO applications.
If a person is refused bail at the police station, he or she must be taken before a court as soon as practicable.
Parramatta bails court is open throughout the holiday period, including weekends – meaning that any person refused police bail will appear before a magistrate on the same or next day. Two magistrates have been appointed to sit at the courthouse over the holidays.
All adults remanded in custody will appear in court via Audio-Visual Link (AVL) – which means on a video screen rather than physically in court.
In regional areas, registrars of local courts may conduct bail hearings when required.
What is considered during a bail application
It is crucial to get bail applications right the first time, as you normally only get one chance at bail in the Local Court.
When deciding whether or not to grant bail, the magistrate will determine whether the applicant poses an ‘unacceptable risk’ to the community. In making that decidion, the magistrate will consider whether:
- The applicant is likely to turn up to court;
- Is suspected of committing a serious offence;
- Is likely to be a danger to individuals or the community, and
- Is likely to interfere with witnesses or other evidence.
In addition, some of the more serious charges are what’s known as ‘show cause’ offences, which means that applicants who are not an ‘unacceptable risk’ must additionally prove that there are good reasons why they should be granted bail.
Bail applications in children’s courts
Bail applications for children will also be heard in the Parramatta Local Court. Interestingly, there was no legislative authority for children’s bail applications to be heard via AVL on 22 and 23 December, meaning that children had to attend court in person on those dates. However, children brought before the courts between 24 December were heard via AVL, and 1 January is also covered by the legislation.
In regional areas, children’s bail may be decided by a registrar. If bail is refused, the child will be taken to a detention centre and appear by AVL the next day before a magistrate in Parramatta’s Children’s.
Although courts are closed, court registries function on a limited basis during the Christmas season.
Although service desks at courts are closed, NSW court registries are contactable via phone or email to answer general inquiries about administrative matters.
It is important to remember that registry staff can only give you general information about things like court procedures, filing forms or and court dates – they cannot give legal advice.
Urgent Apprehended Violence applications can also be made before the duty Magistrate by fax or email during court sitting hours (generally 9:30 – 4 at most courts).
Urgent care and protection orders can also be made during the Christmas period at Parramatta Local Court.
Legal Help over the Holiday Season
Sydney Criminal Lawyers is open throughout the festive season to provide support to our existing clients, for new enquiries and court representation.
Throughout the holiday period, we offer free first conferences to those who have a court date, and we represent clients in court at short notice for bail applications.
If you or a loved-one find yourself on the wrong side of the law this festive season, feel free to give us a call 24/7 and we’ll be there for you.