Appearing in court can be an intimidating experience for anyone, especially if you are not familiar with the court process. If you are going to court for a relatively minor matter, you will probably need to appear at a local court like Liverpool Local Court. Local court hearings are generally presided over by a single magistrate or judge rather than a judge and jury.
Prepare your defence
Preparation is important if you are due to appear at a local court. Even if it is a relatively minor matter, it is a good idea to find a lawyer to represent you or at least seek professional advice about representing yourself, as this can help ensure that you present the best possible defence.
If you are planning to plead not guilty make sure you research the law as it relates to your charges and go over the circumstances of the alleged offence so that you have it clear in your mind. This will help you present your case strongly and also means that you or your lawyer can identify any mitigating circumstances which could act in your favour and strengthen your defence.
Even if you decide to plead guilty, it is still a good idea to go over the details of the case with a lawyer. In some cases you may be able to apply for a reduction in the charges, or obtain a section 10 dismissal or conditional release order for a guilty plea, which could reduce the severity of the overall penalty or even mean that you could avoid conviction altogether.
Gather your evidence
If you are presenting evidence to support your case it is important that you gather this well in advance, so you have everything ready on your court date. Evidence you might need to provide includes character references, medical records and written statements from witnesses.
Know what to expect
Make sure you familiarise yourself with the overall court process, so you have an idea what to expect. This can help you feel more confident and less anxious about the process. It may help to visit the court house before your case so you can have an idea of the layout and where the court lists are posted. Ensure you know how to find the court house and where to park to avoid additional stress on the day of your appearance.
On the day
On the day of your court appearance, there are a few things you can do to help things go more smoothly. Security at Liverpool Local Court can be stringent and you may need to submit to a search of your belongings. Make sure you take any knives, scissors, syringes, spray cans or tools out of your bags before arriving at the court as they could slow the process down, and will probably end up being confiscated by security staff.
Make sure you bring all your evidence including your original Court Attendance Notice and any statements or other documentary evidence that is required. Allow plenty of time for delays so you aren’t late, and make sure you also allow plenty of time for your matter to be dealt with. There can be lengthy delays at any local court so you may need to wait for a number of hours for your hearing.